Maybe I need a tattoo on my forehead that reads, “Breast Cancer Survivor.” If people knew that from the very start I wouldn’t stick my foot in my mouth nearly as often. You see, breast cancer is a huge part of my life, and sometimes I forget that not everyone knows about my cancer. I feel as though cancer radiates around me all the time. It is my life. However, I rarely start conversations to let people know about my cancer history. So awkward conversations are bound to happen. And I’ll be honest, sometimes I still like to shock people, put them in their place a little.
It has happened a few times at work. I am only there a few hours a week, so while people recognize me, no one but my department knows me very well. My job is in a long-term care facility.
I was there one morning when a nurse came in to talk to my boss. She was telling her that a coworker had stage IV cancer, and that she had no shot at returning to work. I saw my boss look at me and proceed to nod to the nurse, willing her to be quiet. The nurse went on though, saying something about everyone knowing that stage IV was terminal.
At that point my mouth opened and words began to escape.
“Really? I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I’m still here.”
Her eyes got huge. She looked at me, and quickly looked away.
“Well, I …” she began.
“No one can tell her when she is going to die.” I started in. “None of us have that ability. I am over nine years out. Someone told me to ‘get my affairs in order.’ It isn’t okay.”
She began to talk about the fact that it wasn’t likely that she would recover.
By the time she left I was fuming. It kills me when people cannot have faith in others. Let the woman fight. Help her, believe in her. What’s the worse thing that will happen?
Sometimes I do manage to keep things a little more light-hearted. Take this example.
One morning I was telling someone that I was hot. Totally joking, she replied by saying, “Going through the change of life already?”
I’m pretty sure I floored her when I said, “Oh no, I did that years ago.”