When a person is pregnant, their life becomes an open book, so to speak. Or maybe others see a pregnant person's life as a library book...there for sharing with others. Total strangers feel perfectly comfortable asking questions such as "When are you due?" or "What are you having?" They also feel totally comfortable telling the pregnant person horror stories, asking about bodily functions or telling about their (or their partner's) bodily functions....nothing is quite so wonderful as having some guy tell you about his wife's anal fissure, for instance.
I'm finding life to be very similar down here in L'ville as a visible cancer survivor.
Other survivors have approached me and that's quite nice. But it's the civilians who are getting in my bubble. One woman approached me...granted, she's in her 80s and a pretty straight shooter to start with, and said, "So, why do you wear that sleeve?" A few minutes later, she asked, "So, why is your hair so short?" Really lady? Wouldn't, "So, do you have cancer" or something similar be a little easier? Or, how about the question I got today, "So, what is your health status?" From a total stranger. Better yet, after being asked about my story by someone I have just met this week, the man then asked me, "So, if it was in your lymph nodes, doesn't that mean certain death?" To be honest, sir, drawing breath means certain death at some point....why would I discuss my mortality with a stranger? During a 15 minute work break, to boot? Oh, wait....I WOULDN'T.
Don't get me wrong. I have absolutely no problem discussing these issues with people I know. In fact, I'd rather discuss it openly than to leave people I care about guessing and wondering. I enjoyed the "So, what's up with the shooter sleeve?" questions I've gotten from some of my younger AP reader acquaintances. One long time acquaintance, former BGSU'er, out right said, "So, this year was a rough one for you, eh? When were you diagnosed?" That's fine and dandy. She KNOWS ME.
Another reader who is a survivor, sitting across from me at dinner one night, nodded at my sleeve and said, "I took mine off 18 years ago, and I've never had a problem, but I still do my exercises, just in case.....the first week of August, I'll be 20 years cancer free" and then teared up. Awesome! But the virtual stranger at my reading table who just won't let it go...the one who has asked me about my insurance, my sick leave, my prognosis, my surgery....while I'm fine and dandy about letting people I know feel my cement boobs in the Meijer parking lot, I really don't want to discuss my surgery with some virtual stranger, a man in his 60s, who I just met two days ago and with whom I've shared maybe 200 words up until this point....
It has been neat to have had a few people notice my sleeve and ask me if I'm a runner....if only! But I'll take that as an assumption:)
I guess it would never occur to me to ask a virtual stranger, "So, why are you blind?" unless it had come up in conversation. Yet, people always ask pregnant women things like, "Was it planned?" I wonder what would happen if someone, in answer to that question, were to respond, "Actually, no, but I figured this was easier than an abortion, plus I'm s super duper procrastinator, so here I am...."
Sort of like when strangers ask, "Did you find it yourself?" What would they think if I answered, "Actually, it was airport security that found it....I was pulled aside for random screening....."