succumbing to peer pressure

Monday, May 14, 2007

Twisty isn't for everyone, but her latest (in a long line of awesome) post about cancer should be mandatory reading.

The point of my piece, however, is to complain. Complaining is not virtuous, I realize. In fact, thanks to the corporate breast cancer mascot — the plucky, pinkified Breast Cancer Survivor ™ who’s popularized the insane idea that women embrace the disease as an opportunity for personal growth — there is nothing in this world so unpleasant as a breast cancer sufferer who

• isn’t grateful
• doesn’t feel lucky
• won’t suffer nobly in silence
• thinks all those pious pink volunterrorists are deluded
• believes that the pseudo-concerned Racers-for-the-Cure luxuriate at her expense in a false sense of meaningless “philanthropy”
* is hopping mad over the expectation that she pretend she still has tits
* is even hopping-madder over the expectation that she shut the fuck up

I’m even hopping madder that I find myself capitulating. “So how’re you doing?” people ask me, and I almost always answer that I’m doing “great.” Because it would seem so ungracious to answer any other way. I mean, since after all I’m not dead and wouldn’t it be greedy and ungrateful of me to expect more than that?

Well, I’m puttin’ the kibosh on that bogus shit right now.

This is what it’s like to “survive” breast cancer treatment: you feel, every goddam day, like something that oozed from a rotting log after an acid rain. I mean, every goddam day you experience everything on this list:

• markedly decreased mental acuity that your friends laugh off because they don’t understand it’s not just garden-variety where-did-I-put-my-keys, but is in fact a substantial and debilitating hit in the old IQ (in fact, it’s really dementia, but you can’t bring yourself to call it that because a) you’re only 48, and b) you can’t remember the goddam word anyway)
• crippling joint pain
• either diarrhea or constipation but never neither and you never know which
• dizziness
• depression
• episodic weeping
• insomnia
• hourly hot flashes
• the ‘aura’ of utter despair that precedes, and is substantially more discomfiting than, the hourly hot flashes
• a sense of general debility
• extreme fatigue
• pain and peeling skin on the radiation site
• a flappy, post-hysterectomy bladder
• anxiety that the next scan will reveal a recurrence
• numbness and pain from the center of your chest to your elbow
• the constant sensation, from your dual 7″ scars, that you’re wearing a bra two sizes too small
• a crushing sense of futility
• fear of imminent death

Nothing’s gonna fix all that shit. And let’s face it; socially, it’s just a big pile of stay-away-you-repulse-me. Even I find it repulsive. If I were you, I wouldn’t be touching this blog post with a ten-foot pole.

I suspect that’s why Susan Mitchell feels obliged to so agreeably acknowledge her indebtedness to the wonders of medical science. It’s impolite to have cancer. It’s even more impoliter, when, a year or so after your last treatment and you’re still not dead, someone asks you “so how are you feeling“, and you go, “Well, Chet, my post-cancer-treatment life is actually a waking nightmare.”

A waking nightmare may be somewhat preferable to death, but only just. It’s definitely not a fucking cure, and I’m done pretending to be grateful for it.

Her point about how repulsive the reality is, even to her, reminds me of a moment from Weeds (yes, I'm comparing someone's real life to a fictional tv show. get over it) when a woman with breast cancer sits down next to a little boy who's father has died and she says they both make people uncomfortable. That no one knows what to say to them and everyone wishes that they would just hurry up and feel better already so that everyone else could go back to knowing how to interact with them. So how do you convince your friends that when you ask how they're doing, you really mean it? You can handle it if they say that they're doing badly or worse and ready to listen without trying to fix. But maybe that isn't what they're looking for either.


Anonymous Twisty said...

"Twisty isn't for everyone"

Are you sure? I mean, don't you know I'm an internet darling?

10:59 AM  

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