What does a person with cancer look like?
How should they act?
What kinds of things can they do? What can’t they do?
One Saturday, after I’d had a couple of chemo treatments and lost all my hair – but not my penchant for a glass of cabernet sauvignon of three in the evenings, or at lunch, or in a bath at 9am, or whenever I damn well pleased – we were invited to lunch at a friends house. As I poured myself a glass of yummy wine to have with lunch, I looked up to see one of my friends standing there glaring at me. Glaring. As he regarded me disdainfully, I smiled and raised my glass at him cheerily, to which he responded, “I see having cancer hasn’t affected your ability to knock back a drink.”
Er, the fuck?
I was mad. I felt judged. His inference seemed to be that people with cancer did not simply drink wine at lunch with friends. Perhaps he’d have felt more comfortable if I’d taken to a deckchair on the patio in the shade with a knee rug, all Barbara-Hershey-from-Beaches. He’d clearly wanted a cancer hero, and was disappointed to find I was more your cancer wino.
We’re not friends any more, by the way.
The people you know with cancer haven’t changed that much. It may be they may consider the personal transformation part of having cancer to be totally optional. Your friend with cancer may continue to smoke, drink, be selfish and obnoxious, talk negative (the nerve) and even refuse to drink organic juice five times a day. You have two options. You can deal with it, or not.
Cancer is a jerk. Sometimes we who must put up with it simply don’t want it to change us, for better or worse, because it is a jerk.
Let’s all not be jerks too.
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