I have noticed a phenomenon. Women undergoing the most grueling of chemo treatments or surgeries actually fight their doctors and their families to keep on keepin on as if nothing has changed. We want to keep things as normal as we possibly can because we refuse to let cancer control or change our lives as we know them.
We still go to work.
We still make dinner for the kids.
We still do laundry.
We still take out the garbage and clean the house.
We wear a wig to make ourselves appear healthy and to retain our normal appearance.
By doing this we win small battles every day that add up in the bigger war against cancer.
It isn't easy though. I actually have dreams about my hair. I sometimes watch a shampoo commercial on TV and think I would like to try it and then I remember... I won't be using shampoo with sunflower essence and pearls for shine for a long, long time. And I have to endure the treatments, just like all my other sisters do.
Since this is my second time around with a primary cancer I have the ability to see down the road. I know I felt hopeless the first time around, as if the treatments would never, ever end and I would never, ever get my life back. But I did. And I had a normal life for five years. So this time around I just have to remember that next year at this time I WILL be buying shampoo and will be myself again.
Why am I telling you all this??? Because I want to ask you a question. Why is it that women can do all that we do and try to keep our lives as un-interrupted as possible, yet other people, with "lesser" illnesses seem to revel in the fact they are sick?
I have two examples. One is a friend who has "fibromyalgia", which the medical community looks at as a "garbage can" diagnosis. That means when the docs can't figure out what is wrong with you they throw you in the garbage can along with all the other whiners and complainers that they cannot seem to help. It has been my experience that the people who have "fibromylagia" really have something else wrong but since no one knows what it is they acquire this catch all phrase. But back to my friend. She has now made her "disease" part of her life to such an extent that she almost introduces herself to strangers as "Hi, I am Mary and I have fibromyalgia". This has now morphed into..." because of my fibromylagia I can't do anything anymore so I am going to stay indoors watching Dr. Phil reruns while my life passes me by."
I want to shake her sometimes and tell her to get up, go outside and live her life. There are WORST things to have and your attitude is your altitude. If you want to wallow in self pity and be a perpetual victim and cease to participate in life, then you are robbing yourself of precious days that you cannot see passing you by- days you cannot ever get back again.
Wouldn't any of you give anything to have a few cancer free days back? WE see how precious time is- why is so hard for everyone else?
The second example is a friend's husband. This man is a bum. There is no other way to describe him. He has never worked a day in his life and went from his parents supporting him to his wife, my friend, supporting him. He sits home all day and pretends to be this big wheeler-dealer in front of the neighbors, when in fact he has never had a job. What is worse, he treats my friend like she is some sort of dingbat housewife in front of people, shaking his head and mumbling to anyone who will listen how pathetic she is and he is the big bread winner and decision maker in the family.
He is supposedly "sick" now too. He claims to have hepatitis so that makes it impossible for him to work... as if he ever DID work. When I first met him, in the first thirty seconds of our conversation, he told me about his "hep C" and how debilitated he is.
I know people who really ARE debilitated by "hep C" - he isn't one of them. He jogs every morning, belongs to a gym and just hired a personal trainer (his wife of course is footing that bill). Does that sound like debilitated to you?
If you have read this far I suppose you have sensed I am mad. I am. The other day I asked this man a question about a neighborhood project we are working on. He has managed to mismanage it and the entire block is mad at him. I asked him something that he couldn't answer because he couldn't keep his lies straight. His response?
"Don't ask me any questions, I am sick."
There I was standing there in the throes of Abraxane side effects with a blood count of 1 and he is telling ME he can't answer because HE is sick? He stays home all day, except for his trips to the gym and buying himself clothes (which his wife pays for) and gossiping with the housewives on the street and does absolutely nothing to contribute to his home, his wife, his neighborhood, to anything. In fact, when his wife comes home from work SHE has to make dinner for him (because he is sick), SHE has to mow the lawn and rake the leaves (because he is sick), she even has to shovel the snow. And if she asks for a hand he tells her he can't-- because he is sick. He does this even as he leaves for the gym to work out.
He knows that I have cancer and am in the middle of chemo, yet he has the audacity to play the "hep C" card. In the grand scheme of the world viewed in terms of Rock, Paper, Scissors, cancer covers hep C every time. But I didn't say anything. I wanted to but I believe the man is mentally ill and a pathological liar. A person gets NO WHERE arguing with someone like that. I simply walked away, in my wig and still limping a little from the neuropathy in my foot, thinking, I may be sicker than him on paper - but thank God I am not as sick as he is in person. I will continue to fight the beast and will lose what is left of my eyelashes and brows, but there is makeup for that. I will finish my course of treatments and never let anyone else know what I am doing because to me, I have a battle against an unwelcomed visitor and I am showing it the door. My friend's husband welcomed hepatitis C into his life because it is absolutely the one and only thing he has ever accomplished in this life.
I love life and will not let cancer define me. Like a house with termites, I am calling in the big exterminators to get rid of them and I will replace the damaged wood and re-paint and still keep my garden beautiful because the termites don't define a house and cancer or ANY other disease does not define a person.
I pity the poor bastard. Living off his wife, begging for attention from anyone who will give it to him, and embracing his disease like an accomplishment rather than something that has to be fought.
Thanks but no thanks.
I will stick with my warrior sisters who fight and live everyday to the fullest... who have reconstructive surgeries, who go out on dates because the FUTURE is ahead of us and cancer is not on our dance cards. Not by a long shot.
To all of you who have never played "the cancer card" I salute you. I lift my glass to you and shout No Surrender! Because we are so much stronger than that and too cool to wimp out like my friend's husband does- every minute of every day.