Early on in the cancer process, I stopped telling people about my diagnosis face to face. I always wanted to let people know, sort of as background information, so that when I snarked about it or played the cancer card, they'd be in on the joke. But, it turns out that when you say, "I have cancer," people don't treat it like saying, "Oh, I have two dogs," (I do) or "My family is from Spain" (they aren't). Instead, the conversation grinds to a halt and then the person has this moment where they are very clearly trying to decide how to proceed. Then they, assume a very practiced caring expression and say something sympathetic (usually, "How do you feel?" to which I always wanted to respond, "Now? Awkward"). But I never wanted sympathetic. I just wanted to continue on with the conversation, only now having introduced a minor plot point. So, to avoid this awkwardness, I just started telling people over e-mail.
But the point of this post isn't that I no longer tell people about my diagnosis face to face. It's that cancer is this buzzword that signifies TERRIBLE! The word itself carries so much cache. People hear that and it's like you've said "I have the worst thing that can happen to anyone." Like there is nothing worse in the world than cancer. And that's not true. At all.
The fact of the matter is that all sorts of people deal with really terrible things all of the time. They just don't have a nice buzzword associated with them. I have friends who have two preschool aged children that were both diagnosed with a really awful degenerative disease. I have another friend who lost both parents while she was pregnant with her first child. Infertility, divorce, chronic pain, whatever it is, nearly everyone I know has dealt with some sort of catastrophic problem. And the people I know who aren't dealing with huge issues still live difficult stressful lives, with bad bosses and long commutes and cranky kids.
And the point of all of this is that yes, having cancer sucks. It's not like a magical pony ride to cotton candy land. But my life isn't any worse than anyone else's. Bad things happen to people all the time, and this just happens to be the lot I was dealt. And, in many ways, my life could be much, much worse than it is, and I'm really grateful that it isn't. I think Jay-Z put it pretty nicely. Is cancer one of my 99 problems? Yes, but a bitch isn't.
(Oh, and I do listen to things other than rap, but you'd never know it from reading this blog.)