bah, humbug

i am a mean, heartless, even shocking person.

or at least i was while christmas day was being ushered into north america.

at a friend's house, i was reconnecting with some dear girls from school whom are in fact more like sisters to me. although we don't see each other often anymore, these three are the people in my life with whom i can sit down after months of being apart and immediately pick up where we had left off. no topic of conversation is taboo and we have seen each other through all of the ups and downs of the past 15 years.

we were chatting around a christmas cake in the kitchen. good company, food, and spirits reflected the downright jolly atmosphere. the four of us were taking turns discussing our plans with family for later on that day, when the following exchange brought the gaiety to a grinding halt:

"so, amanda, what are you doing with family for the holiday?"

"well, we are eating at my gram's...i was worried about her hosting a meal for so many when she's not feeling well, but things seem to be falling into place..."

"wait--what's wrong with your gram?"

"oh, i didn't tell you? we found out that she has breast cancer."

(insert various random expressions of disbelief and hopes/wishes for her health to return here)

"well," one friend continued,"i'm sorry that this happened to her after everything else..."

i took a breath and didn't quite know what to say. it's funny how one can travel this road so many times and still feel totally unrehearsed.

"well...what can you say? shit happens."

all three stopped what they were doing and looked at me in disbelief. all of the sudden, the air was heavy with the unspoken...

"that's a hell of a thing to say!"
"how could you say that about your gram?"
etc. etc.

but the more i thought about it, what WAS i supposed to say? yes, it stinks that cancer struck the two people closest to me in one year. yeah, it's not fair. yes, i am very worried for her...her cancer is highly treatable, but she has several other factors working against her that will help to determine the outcome of her treatment. i could have expounded on the fine details of gram's cancer for a half hour or more, but i doubt that any of it would have been what my friends wanted to hear.

since i so egregiously broke the unwritten rules of Discussing Cancer, i have a question to pose to the various friends/acquaintances/family members who haven't travelled this path and expect me to make the same old small talk about how (insert patient's name here) is "doing so well in spite of his/her treatments..."


posted by amanda @ 12:34 AM


At 12/27/2005 09:07:00 AM, Blogger coachhope said...

Hey, that is exactly what should have been said, just because you are being a realist does not make you evil.
I think it has more to do with the fact that the people in question have never had to endure something like this.

At 12/27/2005 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Being Made said...

A question I've asked so often myself. You answered honestly and forthrightly. Bad stuff does really just happen. And saying so isn't being disrespectful or glib. It's just being honest.

At 12/28/2005 07:22:00 PM, Blogger Minerva said...

It isn't your fault that they couldn't deal with it... We know that cancer is ugly, shitty and utterly disgusting sometimes. It is in our nature that we can find good things to say but that doesn't mean that we have to sugar coat it...

You were absolutely right...


At 12/29/2005 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Jeannette said...

We get so immersed in the world of cancer we forget that for those who aren't dealing with it every second of every minute of every day, that we tend to drop "c-bombs" (cancer bombs) on people. While there is nothing wrong with being a realist or expressing things exactly as they are, but often times it is too much reality for others. If they have to face it in our conversations then it gets a little too close to home. They weren't shocked by what you said, they were shocked that is was verbalized at all. Because you know, if you hide from the bad stuff, it can't find you, right? ;)

All the best to both of you in the new year!

At 12/30/2005 03:03:00 PM, Anonymous Dalene said...

I need to preface what I am going to say by first telling you I showed up for my first chemo appointment wearing a Lemony Snicket t-shirt with a graphic that said.."In a series of unfortunate events things are looking worse" and was promptly pulled aside and it was 'suggested' to me that this might not be the best attitude to have in the chemo treatment center. I said, "Reeeally. Then why are all the people mixing up the chemo cocktails dressed head to toe in protective latex-like outerwear?" and I was told, "oh because if the chemicals get on their skin it results in damage only repairable by plastic surgery." And I said, "and these same chemicals are going straight into my vein?" Given the circumstances, I thought my attitude was more than appropriate. I did not apologize. I was happily and busily and optimistically living my life before the day I was told I had cancer. I believe cancer is the first in a series of unfortunate events when it comes to cancer and all that cancer puts people through. And so, when it comes to cancer, which is a nasty bit of business, there is no time for nice. What is there nice to say about it? It happens, shit happens all the time. And I suppose for the uninitiated, it might sound harsh, but cancer is a harsh reality. No time for nice, only time to take it down, stomp it flat into the ground, push it over a cliff. I have learned many lessons as a cancer survivor, one of them is to be very real at all times, and to never apologize for the realism. Hope is real too, but if I do not say the dark is dark, I cannot say when it is light.

At 1/02/2006 12:34:00 AM, Blogger GoodSheila said...

I completely understand and agree with your statement. With my father undergoing treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer, people feel that they must choose their words extra carefully and tip toe through the situation.

I appreciate hearing the words, "I'm so sorry", but it gets to the point where it grates on your nerves more than fingernails on a chalk board.

At 1/03/2006 01:38:00 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Good for you and for just saying it like it is. SHIT HAPPENS.


Post a Comment

» Home

My Photo
Location: NC
Contact Me

Blogs of Note

Other Great Reads


Powered by Blogger
Design by Beccary
Support by Hope IT Works

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 2.5 License.