Sometimes there are things we want to say, but never do. Someone asks something that is really inappropriate, and we just wish we had the perfect retort. I’m reminded of a column that Mad magazine had entitled, “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” I’d have an entry or two related to cancer.
The vast majority of the questions I get about my cancer are from folks who are genuinely concerned and care. Sometimes the questions would benefit greatly from a little rewording or shouldn’t have been asked at all, but there’s only good intentions behind them.
Then there are the people who only want to be on top of gossip hill. Here’s a sample conversation. It starts with them saying “How are you doing?” I answer “great,” because I do actually feel great at the time. Before I can ask how they’re doing, they lean in, twist their head a little like a dog does, and whisper “How are you really doing?” The word really has great drama – it’s drawn out and notably louder than the other words.
Now let’s stop for a moment. Most of the time I’ve experienced this, it’s been with people I invited to follow this blog, and they chose not to. They’re already on shaky grounds when it comes to asking that kind of question as far as I’m concerned. The rest of the time I’ve experienced this, it’s been with people I didn’t know very well. That may be hard to believe, but it’s true. Their second question, and they didn’t know me very well, was a probe for detailed information about my incurable illness! Sorry, but if you don’t know how inappropriate this question is under the circumstances, you, your parents, and any offspring you have should be sterilized, and all the teachers in all the schools you attended should be fired, with all the administrators being fired the day before.
I want to respond by saying “Compared to my life before incurable cancer, my quality of my life has significantly degraded. I take a medication that causes hot flashes, breast sensitivity, reduces my libido, produces crying jags, and causes depression. I take another medicine for the depression that sometimes causes anxiety for which I take still another medicine. The doctors tell me it will probably never get better and will definitely get worse – and then I’ll die. I wouldn’t tell anyone else except you (I know dear blog readers, I know this is a bit dramatic, but it’s a rant!), but there are very rare times when the depression and fear of what’s to come collide and I pray I’ll die right then of a heart attack. In spite of all this, I’m doing the best I can, which is actually quite good. Tonight I feel great, or I did until you brought this up.” At that point I’d like to simply and immediately ask them how are they doing.
Of course I never do that and never will. In the past I tried to understand just how much detail they really could handle and tailored my response to fit that. No more. From here on out I’ll just respond with “I’m happy to be alive.” If they continue to press me, God help them.
Thanks so much for listening to my rant. It’s great to get it off my chest. Y’all are the best!