Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Cancer Card

There are plenty of books and advice columns out there about the proper etiquette for just about everything. But I've yet to see anything in writing about the socially acceptable uses of the Cancer Card.

Here are a few situations I've come across that might beg questions about the use of the CC:

1) I was in a restaurant and wanted to replace the side dish that came with my main course to something else because I was on a special diet during my cancer treatment. The waiter and chef refused to make the change for me.  My chemo-bald head didn't tip them off.  I had to pull out the Cancer Card to get the side dish I wanted to suit my diet, and even that was only after I called the restaurant manager over to explain my situation.

2) I had airline tickets booked for New York in June. I can't travel now because of my treatment. The airline doesn't allow refunds or exchanges. Out came the Cancer Card, but I still had to provide a letter from my oncologist verifying that I did indeed have cancer and might be too sick or too dead to use those tickets.

3) After I finished six weeks of radiation, some friends took me out for dinner to celebrate and brought along a bottle of champagne so I could take a symbolic sip. My friends asked the restaurant to waive the corkage because the fee was too outrageous to make it worthwhile to have the champagne at all. After my friends explained the reason for our celebration that night, the restaurant was generous enough to take a few dollars off the corkage but didn't think somebody conquering cancer warranted waiving the corkage entirely.

I'm not somebody who likes to take advantage of the universal sympathy people have for cancer patients. I don't wave the Cancer Card around expecting special favors everywhere I go. In fact, I'm reluctant to use it because it seems like a weak excuse most of the time.

But I wonder if I should be using it more? How about the following situations?

- Josie finally got a place in a very exclusive school next term after two years on the waiting list. If I die this year, we don't want her to have too many big changes in her life - dead mother plus new school with unfamiliar surroundings - so we'd like her to stay at her current school for one more term. That means we'd have to defer her enrollment in the new school and she'd go back to the bottom of the waiting list. Do we ask the school to make an exception for Josie and allow us to defer her enrollment for one more term IF I die, and if I'm still alive come September, Josie can still have her place? What's the appropriate way to handle this sticky situation? What would Miss Manners say?

- I've had to struggle at times to walk from our parked car to building entrances due to breathlessness. Should I have a handicapped parking sticker so we can park closer to the entrance and I don't have to walk so far? I'm not in a wheelchair, so I shouldn't qualify for a handicapped sticker. In fact, I'm indignant that people are even suggesting I have a handicapped parking sticker. But hey... getting the best parking spot every single time instead of driving around for half an hour looking for parking? Hmm... tempting!

What do you all think? Whip out the Card or pay cash like everyone else?

I'd love to hear any funny stories you might have about times when you used the Cancer Card or were tempted to use it.


Lois Ann said...

I was married to a man who became totally deaf at 6 years old. He was a professional having 2 college degrees. He was 45 years old and out of work when he applied for state vocational help and told he needed to "prove" his deafness. So to the MD he went and was put in a totally soundproof room for a test and heard NOTHING. It was proven. (It upset him to have to go through this.) This kind of ignorance is unreal. You should not have to run into it. Love your positivity in the midst of what you are going through.

Deb said...

There's no upside to cancer so I say use the cancer card whenever it will make your life easier.

You're not one to abuse the situation and it probably plays on your mind more than anyone elses.

Anythig that will help you at the moment is a good thing so use it.

Anonymous said...

I was in Suntec carpark (for those of you who don't know Singapore, Suntec is a big shopping centre) and I "lost" my car. I thought I had memorised the level that I had parked on and the position, but apparently not. It gets incredibly hot in the underground carparks, and as I was having chemo, I didn't feel great. I managed to find some parking employees who helpfully asked me questions such as "Are you sure you're on the right level?". I asked them how they could help me, and they said they couldn't and I would have to keep looking myself, my bald head apparently meaning nothing to them. I then played the CC!! I didn't actually feel that bad, but I thought that I (or someone else) COULD have been feeling dreadful, and the least these people could do was to try and help!!

Anonymous said...

This life is full of different ways to get what you need. The CC is not used by just anyone....they earn it. So I say use it when you want to. You've earned it. I think no other card has the value of the one you have.