Who am I to have a cancer podcast? I could run down my cancer qualifications, such as they are: stage III, mastectomy, chemo, radiation. The bottom line is that I am someone who has been through it. That is all.
When I got diagnosed with cancer, I wanted my mother DESPERATELY. I mean, everyone wants their chosen maternal figure when life goes to hell, and those who’ve suffered the death of a parent know the feeling of everything being worse because mom’s not there. I wanted mom for all those reasons, but I really wanted her for her ability to talk me through cancer. Mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in October of 1998, and she died two and a half months later on January 1, 1999. I wanted to sit down with mom, and not talk; I wanted to just listen, listen to her talk about how her treatment went, what she did/thought/felt. I mean, I was able to talk to people about cancer. Once someone finds out you are diagnosed, they will tell you ALL the people they know who had cancer (maybe even the same kind!) and they are more than happy to put you in touch. And that’s wonderful, that cancer has it’s very own de-centralized phone tree. But… I didn’t WANT to create new relationships. Sometimes (most of the time!) during diagnosis and treatment, I didn’t have the energy to maintain existing relationships, never mind creating new ones. I didn’t want to engage, but I still wanted information, I still wanted support from this new cancer community. What I wanted was Mom, sweet understanding Mom who would tickle my back while talking to her girlfriends about her own cancer journey: what she did, how she coped, what she knows now with the benefit of hindsight. Mom wouldn’t have expected me to do anything but listen. If I thought it would help. On my own schedule. Mom would have helped me think through all these new situations I never thought to have: dealing with the diagnosis, telling or not telling people, getting wigs, managing side effects. Mom was very practical: that which cannot be avoided must be embraced, and she would have held my hand as we figured out how to navigate this strange new landscape.
That’s what I want to be for someone else. I want to be your no-effort cancerfriend, ready with amusing anecdotes and understanding. I want to be the person who knows a little bit what you are going through, that provides some information on how to think about this experience . We are a community, this terrible club of people-who’ve-had-cancer, conscripted into this army we never would have willingly joined.
- I am not the spokesperson for everyone with cancer. My experiences and opinions are my own and not necessarily generalizable to the cancer community as a whole.
- I don't know how to talk about cancer without being explicit. Cancer is graphic, and I want to represent that candidly. Sometimes, swearing and laughing is how I get through.
- I have a dark sense of humor. I think sometimes LIFE has a dark sense of humor.
I want you to know that you are not alone, and not just because of me or Mimi. You have a depressingly high number of people who have been through something very similar to what you are now going through. People have faced what you are facing, people have made it through, and you can read their stories and learn from their experiences. You can see that there is a way through, even if you haven’t found yours yet. I am still searching out my own “way through” path, falling in crevices and getting soaked in streams. There is no “one way”; there is also no way around, no way but through. You can do this because you are doing this, right now. What does “dealing with cancer” look like, anyway? Whatever it is you’re doing is dealing with it. There is no set path, but there are ways to deal that make you (and others) happy, and there are ways to deal that make you (and others) miserable. I want to share the benefit of my hindsight.