Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm Not An Egg

Some friends and I were talking about kids and how we pass on our values to them. One friend mentioned that we teach our kids by example, over time. I said I don't have that luxury since I won't be around as they grow up. Her face just fell and she apologized for saying something so insensitive.

She had nothing to apologize for. In fact, I felt I should apologize for hijacking a normal conversation about parenting and injecting my impending death and doom into it. To me, the fact that I probably won't be around much longer is part of my life, not something to be hidden, denied, or tip-toed around.

When I think about enrolling Josie in school next year, I think things like, "Should I sign her up for the school bus or will I still be alive to drive her to school?" And I think these things as a matter of practicality and logistics, not a self-pitying look into my children's future without me.

I don't want my friends to be worried about saying the wrong thing or mentioning something that might be a touchy subject for somebody with cancer. I'm the same person I was before cancer and I won't break because somebody says something I should be sensitive about.

If you ever find yourself avoiding certain topics or editing yourself or watching your words around me, I'll tell you what I told my friend: Hey, it's me. Cancer or no cancer, I'm still me.

In fact, if I ever thought you were walking on eggshells with me, I'd be offended. So please be open and honest with me.

And just for fun, those of you who are cancer patients or are caregivers of patients, tell me about some of the things people have said to you that you've found insensitive or offensive. Let's see if they offend me.


sasa said...

I have a friend who ask me WHY do i have cancer? It is as it I know the answer!

Anonymous said...

Anyone who knows you knows that you can't inject doom and disaster into our lives, you just get on with it, and I've never heard you talk about cancer when we are out unless someone else asks you. You might remark that you can't eat something, or you can't join an exercise class for the time being!I think you just get on with it! It's a real boon to be someone like you because it means that you will fight it for longer. I'm positive you think sad thoughts about leaving your family too early - when it happens, but for now, you can enjoy your time, wow, well done you!
I have spent a lot of time with very, very old people recently,I see the same but different (lah) resilience in them. We thought they would die about 10 years ago, but one of them seems stronger, the other weaker, then the other will get weaker, the other stronger, just learnt that their elder sister is 101 and their other elder sister died at 105!!! Auntie Zaida gave up smoking aged 90 because she thouht it was bad for her. Live on, all these resilient genes!!

Lots of love
E xxx

Emily said...

Yesterday i met up with a friend who suffers from schizophrenia. We had a hearty chat until i said: "Don't be crazy...,blah blah", & "you must be crazy,..." I didn't mean it literally of course, it was harmless & casual. But on hindsight, the word crazy seems so insensitive.

Shin said...


I have such a bad habit of blurting out inappropriate, insensitive things without thinking them through, that I can certainly understand where you're coming from. But I just have to reassure myself that the person I've offended will accept my apology and trust there was no malicious intent behind my careless words.

Luckily, most of my friends and family are very forgiving. I'm sure your friend forgives you, and a few slips now and then are lost in all the wonderful things you say and do for her.

As I tell my kids, if you do a bad thing, you can't un-do it because it's already done. But you can do lots and lots of good things from then on, to make the bad thing you did seem very little in comparison.

Emily said...

Hi Shin, thanks for your reply (it makes me smile & feel so much better) but I am probably never going to hear from my 'sick friend' again. She's paranoid & think the world is laughing at her. If not aloud then deep in ourselves. Now she's back into her own world again beacause of my big mouth. Sometimes I find that its the patient who walks on eggshells. And thats sad, isn't it? If only there are more people who can be open & honest like you. But apparently there are more eggs than I thought. Your friends are lucky!