The other day, I was trapped in the Onco's waiting room for a long, long, long time. I'm not complaining, just whining. She's a great onco and never, ever has made me feel rushed. She's always running behind. We all know that. We all go prepared to wait. That's just how it is. It's not like people are there for frivolous happenstance. No one goes to her to hear, "It's just a virus, wait it out" or "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" or "it's just a cold" or "heat rash, not measles."
Anyway, there I was waiting waiting waiting. The only good thing about the waiting room there and the registration area is that there are always people around who make me feel healthy. This last time, there was a man registering next to me and he was as grey as a Crayola crayon. I could hear his every breath, and all I could think was, "He is NOT healthy..." and the woman next to me who had had breast cancer five years ago and was back with leukemia now. It really makes me think that life could be worse (and make me shake my fist at fate and promise it a good ass kicking if it gets worse).
Eventually, though, I had to break one of my cardinal rules about public places: "Do not, under any circumstances, pick of reading material." Even though most cancer patients are actually quite healthy when it comes to contagious illnesses (thanks to Neulasta and the fact that when we are sick we are pretty considerate of others or hospitalized), who knows about caregivers and family members? There are probably very few things crawling with more germs than reading material in public places.
Not surprisingly, most of the reading material pertains to cancer.
Flipping through a magazine called Coping, I ran across an article about Sylvia McNair (a Grammy winner who is also a breast cancer survivor). In one section, the article says, "Now, three years on the other side of that 'failure' called cancer, Sylvia views it more as a gift than a setback." Then, McNair is quoted as saying, "Cancer is one of the best things that's ever happened to me."
Excuse me, but this just yanks my chain.
It's not like I'm all about looking for the silver lining. Without a silver lining (and the help of anti-depressants), I'd be one highly depressed individual.
But one of the best things that's ever happened to her? I get really tired of this attitude. In fact, next to the "be a good girl and wear pink, shut up, be pretty, and remain happy--full of gratitude anyway" attitude, about breast cancer in particular....this "best thing that has happened to me" crap really pisses me off.
No, unless your life has really, really sucked--and I mean sucked to the point that a movie has been made about it--cancer is not a best thing. That is pretty demeaning to the people who love you. Cancer is better than the love from your spouse? The birth of your children? Your place with your family, friends, and community?
Can you imagine someone really believing, "The best thing that ever happened to me was the day that the psycho-sadist put out my eyes with a burning poker because it gave me the opportunity to learn to smell?"
Some might call people who can really believe that saints or prophets. I call them crazy mo'fo's who need some perspective.
I'm not denying that anything (especially something that induces suffering) can provide new perspective, provoke appreciation, and even provide learning opportunities and the development of compassion. In fact, McNair goes on to say, "Cancer is a perspective giver like nothing else I've ever experienced. It has given me so much more than it has taken away. And it has taken away a lot....My body is forever altered. But so is my spirit...and my spirit is now living with much more clarity and gratitude. I'm living larger than I have ever lived....Cancer has given me that gift." I am experiencing much the same, at 3.5 months in even (as opposed to her 3 years out).
But it's not a "gift" any more than when your dog shits in your living room and you learn a new technique to remove the stain and odor you've gotten a "gift." I don't look back at the time a box of crayons went through the dryer along with all the RENTED uniforms for a soccer team and I had to learn how to get melted crayon out of fabric and think, "Gosh, what a gift that was." Sure, I gained perspective, I learned new skills, and now, I can even look back and muster up a chortle.
My friends are a gift. The support I get from friends, family, and colleagues is a gift. The friendships that have deepened in the last 3.5 months and the re-connecting I've done with friends from the past are all gifts. But those gifts were there before. They are things that I could have discovered if I'd taken the time to slow down, to focus on what really is important instead of being swept along in the stream that had become my life. The fact that I've found all those wonderful gifts since my diagnosis is proof that they were there all along.
Just for the record, I do not think cancer is a gift. Nor do I think it is one of the "best things that has ever happened to me."
And if I ever start to talk like that each and every one of you has permission to set me straight. YOU are gifts and I'd never disrespect my family and friends by putting cancer on your level.
Nope. No way.
People said many of the same things after the still births of our babies. Or better yet, "Without those losses you wouldn't be blessed with the wonderful children you have." Wonderfully illogical, yet heartfelt, thinking, that is. No, I'd have other wonderful children. And the ones I have now could still turn out to be serial killers, spouse abusers, the next Hitler, or Republicans. Drat, If Jeffry Dahmer's mother had just NOT HAD THAT MISCARRIAGE....
I'm pretty sure I could have learned all of the lessons I've learned without cancer, too.