A Few Things Cancer People Know
1. People aren’t cruel. Sometimes, they’re just a bit stupid.
When you’re first diagnosed, some people will cry and fiercely grab hold of your elbows (it’s always the elbows). Others will become the suburban Florence Nightingale and decide they’re your ‘special cancer buddy’, when it’s really just about gaining cred. These people aren’t mean. They just don’t know any better.
Which is why you need to…
2. … Use your Cancer Dog Whistle.
This is a fantastic tool that all cancer sufferers will deploy, whether they know it or not.You’ll use phrases, relate anecdotes and answer questions in the same language you want to come back at you. Whether that’s raw profanity or spiritually enlightened positivity, you’ll quickly weed out the people who aren’t on your page. Those who can’t cope will back right off. While your people will hunker down for the long haul.
3. Now is not the time for kale.
Look. Your body is trying to kill you, and now you’re taking medicine that's trying to kill your body. It is not the time to become a spirulina-loving Goop-reader. You’ll have plenty of time to balance out your diet, so for today live on chips and Coke and whatever else your chemo appetite will allow you to not regurgitate. Just don't tell the vegans.
4. Humiliation is in the eye of the beholder
Regardless of your own special brand of cancer, there’ll be plenty of moments that make you cringe, like when your nurse slathers your nether-regions in Vaseline then wraps you in cling film like a roast chook.
Guess what? You control what feels awkward. If you radiate shame, or embarrassment, or any other bullshit emotion, folks around you will pick up on it. Owning your treatment and the compromising positions it puts you in will chill everyone out, including you.
5. You’ve been gifted the mother of all excuses.
This is a miraculous revelation. You literally never have to do anything, or go anywhere, ever again. It’s brilliant. Texts remains unanswered. Birthday drinks unvisited. Act like a jerk and no-one can do a thing about it.
6. Hospital is not a bad place.
In hospital you’re treated like a duchess. You’re cooked for; cleaned up after; you watch TV all day; and people send you nice things. It’s kind of like being at a spa retreat, but with much better drugs.
7. There’s no clinical benefit to pain.
A nurse said this to me as she plunged a magnum of morphine into my stomach. She was right: there’s no prize for ‘toughing it out’. Your job is to fuck yourself up with cancer treatment, which means you can also fuck yourself up with clinically prescribed opiods. I’d always been a bit pissweak when it came to recreational drugs. Cancer was my time to shine.
8. Yes, everyone’s sick of talking about it.
They’ll say they aren’t, but they are SO BORED of your cancer chat. Try and remember to throw the odd question about their lives into conversation. While they answer, you’ll have time to think of your next hilarious cancer anecdote.
9. Even if you’re going to die, you’re not going to die immediately.
Stop panicking about writing your memoirs and planning your funeral playlist. Don’t spend all your money on holidays and good booze, whilst eating like Mr Creosote … I did, and now we’re poor, I’m fat and no-one’s died yet.
10. Grief hides in plain sight.
It’s a sneaky bugger. It’ll get you when you’re folding your kid’s socks and you remember you’re not having any more children, ever. And then you’re crying in the bedroom and shaking your proverbial fist at what makes this all so unfair. It’s OK. Do it; let the pain lift you up like a wave, and then watch it pass on by.
11. Perspective doesn’t last.
You will be draped in a Magic Cancer Cloak from the moment you’re diagnosed, so wrap up tight. It provides you with a second sight that blasts through twenty-first century middle-class bullshit and shows you what’s important.
This is a cheats’ shortcut to Spiritual Enlightenment and you’ve got it! Relish as it reveals what truly matters: family, love, mid-winter sunshine on your face.
~ This article was first published in Frankie magazine ~