Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More to Life Than Cancer

We cancer patients can be self-absorbed and single-minded. Death looming over our heads can really take over our lives. We count on you, our family and friends, not to let it.

I've had friends talk to me about their everyday problems with their spouses, kids, colleagues at work, and then they stop themselves and say, "I shouldn't be complaining about this stuff! This is nothing compared to what you're going through!"

Or they're chit-chatting along about themselves and then suddenly realize they have a dying cancer patient in front of them. "Listen to me going on about this silly stuff! Tell me about you. How do you feel? How's the treatment going? Let's talk about you."

I know there are some cancer patients who want to talk about nothing else or think that whatever anyone else has to say isn't as important as what they, as cancer patients, have to say. But I'm sure they're the minority. And if it weren't cancer, it might be something else that makes their troubles more important than anybody else's. But most cancer patients, including myself, want to hear about what's happening outside of Cancer World.

A bad break-up with a boyfriend might sound trivial compared to a life-and-death struggle with cancer, but we human beings feel what we feel. If the break-up is what's consuming you and keeping you up at night, let's talk about that. It's probably a lot more interesting than the details of my latest test results anyway.

It's true - I could live, eat, and breathe cancer 24/7 if I let myself. Cancer can be as big or as little as I let it be. When I spend an entire day at the hospital getting tests and treatments, cancer takes over the day. But even then, I don't sit waiting for my echocardiogram thinking about cancer. I'm usually thinking about the same mundane things everyone else thinks about while waiting in line at the bank or supermarket.

Yes, cancer is right up there on the list of things worth complaining about. Yes, it probably trumps a family squabble or a bad hair day in terms of seriousness. But that doesn't mean other problems aren't important. Think of it this way. If you want to complain to me about the horrible haircut you have to live with after spending four hours and a week's salary at the hairdresser's, I can comfort myself with the thought that at least I don't have to worry about silly things like haircuts anymore.

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