The past two weeks I have had odd but quiet thoughts on this whole cancer thing roaming within my head, my body. I have wanted to walk slowly amongst the living in solitude and anonymity, just wanting to enjoy people watching, slowly re-enter into feeling better again….almost like my old self. It is difficult to do this when constantly either at a doctor appointment or surrounded by lovely people assisting me with the normalcies of life. It is really difficult to do this while wearing a bald badge that has people looking at you with an ‘oh, dear….isn’t she too young’ look on their face. My life is micro-managed by other people and it is exhausting. Sometimes I really want to get in the car and drive alone for a long weekend somewhere crazy. Maybe I should do that…like breaking plates, just rip the band aid off and live the way I need to right now. Though, I guess I couldn’t escape those over sympathetic smiles from strangers in the drugstore.
This melancholy state that I had been having, became darkly comical as within one week, three checkers at different grocery type stores all asked me the same question to start. I was beginning to feel I was at a comic-con convention, everyone lining up to share their fascinations of characters on brightly colored head scarves. Somebody should make a cancer comic book.
Here is exchange #1 (while lovely she wanted to share, it was a little much at 10:00 in the morning on a gloomy day).
“I like the way you wear your scarf” heavy pause
“are you in treatment?, she quickly adds “I was a cancer patient too, breast cancer right? Was it hr2+? estrogen receptor something or other, did you have a lump or mastectomy?
and on and on and on, she went
eye roll and heavy thoughts now emerge, quietly I responded…
“well, mine has metasticzed into a rare form of stage four neuro-endocrin cancer along with the BC. I try not to remember the details while I’m shopping. (I just wanted to buy my pillow and get the hell out there)
This disjointed dialogue continued. She was a sweet survivor who wanted to relate, perhaps she needed something, or someone, though she wasn’t very mindful of the place that I was in, a non-sharing, quiet space. I think it is important to be present when we have this kind of solidarity. We don’t always need to share, we can just “be” with each other, and learn from the simple nod, or the smile or shrug. Or the first simple phrase, “I like how you wear your scarf”.
This said enough for me on that day. Encounter # 2 was similar, though not as obnoxious with the stats and science words of which my chemo brain couldn’t quite remember.
I began my comic-con, cancer-con parallel due to the third encounter. She was young, sweet, and a 13 year Leukemia survivor. She did start with the same scarf line, literally the same exact line. I’ve never been to a comic con, but I imagine when you arrive dressed in costume to a booth (much like my checker aisle), the same words are spoken…I like how you wear, yaddayadda. Scarf, sword, glitter tights, wigs, it’s all the same when people have someone to relate to, up close and personal. Somehow relating to others in a situation seems to make the freak show of our crazed existence seem more bearable, seems to make the cancer a bit less, well, less deadly. If so and so survived then I will too…
We all have stories to tell and should share them….this is what I am doing here; I do enjoy the dialogue, it truly helps, but really, do I need to air them at the Fred Meyer or Whole Foods check out stand with the lady behind me counting coupons and buying toilet paper waiting as we dish on which treatments are easiest? Hell, once I made the salesgirl in Barney’s breakdown in tears, with my baby in the stroller…I thought the whole CO-OP department was about to ball. At least at a convention we might know what we are getting into, stand in line in your best scarf to talk about cancer, and at least it might be a bit darkly comical. I try to find the humor and the visual of us cancer patients at a comic-con sounds brilliant to me.