I kind of cringe a little just looking at those words. But if I’m honest then I have to fess up to the truth. When Steven was in the midst of major chemo for lymphoma, I could burst into tears while I was trying to grocery shop. Believe it or not, that was one of my hardest tasks. It took hours scanning the shelves looking for the things that he would find tasty, be able to hold down, provide nourishment and be relatively odorless, so he wouldn’t turn green before it was prepared! I’d spend an hour in the store and come home with one small bag of mostly liquids and foods that looked like I was feeding a toddler.
One day I ran into a former employer who I was never too crazy about anyway. I gave him a weak smile and a forced, “Hi, how are you?”. I didn’t really care how he was and certainly didn’t feel like wasting time. But he felt like chatting. His cart had a 12 pack of beer and snacks that looked like a party in the making. He mentioned a little jaunt around the river in his boat.
And then he got really dramatic as he announced that he had prostate cancer. Suddenly he was Sir Lawrence Olivier as he explained the procedure his doctor did, inserting “radioactive seeds”. The over acting was lost on me. I was still stuck on the “going boating” part of the tale.
I was so busy stewing and mentally critiquing his scene simultaneously that I guess he thought I was intently listening. So he just kept babbling. I just kept boiling. Finally he asked how I was…by then I was mad, and I was mean…really mean, and I kind of snapped.
I told him I wasn’t so good because Steven had “REAL” cancer, not the kind where they could plant radioactive seeds in his pubic hair and water them with Bud Lite. OUCH! And as much as I’d like to stick around to chat up boating and nacho recipes, my husband was at home bald and puking and I really had to run…But great to see you. Surprisingly, I didn’t even feel bad at the time.
In all honesty, I still don’t feel really bad about that little interlude. I see the guy in Publix every once in a while, buying cocktail party snacks and fiesta food, and he looks pretty good. And we still exchange pleasantries, although we don’t stop and chat, more just nod and smile. But I do give him credit for one thing. I always thought he was a jerk. But on that day, he let me be the jerk and never even flinched. So maybe he’s not such a jerk after all. Because if he is, than I am too!
Rather than be a jerk, I think I’d like to put a positive spin on this. Cancer is a scary thing. It doesn’t matter what kind. You can live through some of the worst and die with some of the most curable. Treatment, drugs, doctors, knowledge and blah, blah, blah are all factors. But attitude is on the top of the list. And sometimes you might have a great attitude and still be a jerk or a snob. The best you can do is to try not to be either. Cut yourself a break and get on with it. Everyone who has ever crossed path with cancer knows, we’ve got lives to live!