Monday, May 04, 2009

What is someone with cancer supposed to look like?

Lately, people have been coming up to me and saying things like: "You look really good!" The implication being: how come you have cancer and you look good?

I feel like I'm supposed to apologize or something. "Sorry I look so good! I should really be looking more awful, but the cancer hasn't really affected my appearance. So far."

I've been lucky. My lumpectomies don't really show through my clothes, so my chest looks pretty normal. I haven't had chemo, so I still have my hair. I haven't had any side effects (yet) from radiation, and even if I do, I don't think you'd be able to SEE those side effects. So, it's true, I look pretty good for someone with cancer.

But what is someone with cancer supposed to look like, anyway? And if I don't look the way people expect someone with cancer to look...what does that say about me? And about them?

And how I look doesn't necessarily reflect how I feel. I've been pretty tired lately - not sure if it's from the cancer or just from life. And I'm not particularly enjoying going to radiation every day, even though I have a reserved parking spot that reads "oncology patients only." Why would I park in a spot for oncology patients? Oh, yeah...


Kibbitz said...

Your last several blogs are about the way people are reacting to you.

Could I suggest a "primer" for conversing with someone who has cancer.

During most people's lives, we live free of illness or disease. Sprinkled in, periodically, are colds and sprains and other things that make us realize that our body is not on automatic. Other times, our outlook is clouded and we can feel lousy from anything.

So, how should we react to someone who gets something serious, like Cancer, MS, Parkinson's or Alzheimers. I think the things that are bugging you, equally bug the person who makes the statement. Illness and Disease are awkward subjects.

You are definitely making me think about how words can affect you. Maybe you can collect your thoughts or discuss with others and offer some guidance about what we can say that is better.

BTW - I for one am glad that your disease has not resulted in many of the things that make people with cancer stick out. I think if you were wearing wigs or shmatas, you would feel even more singled out.

I look forward to the day that your treatments are behind you and you can announce to the world that you (and modern medicine) successfully controlled your cancer.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Tag! You're it!!

Hugh Weber said...

Watch this story of a mother's love and help me give the best Mother's Gift imaginable to my wife

I'm sorry to barge on into your web community and just start talking, but I'm on a mission to give my wife, Amy, an amazing Mother's Day gift.

You can watch the video here:

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with my wife and chose to have the baby rather than start chemo. She died one year later, the day after Mother's Day.

This Mother's Day will be my wife's first (my daughter is 5 weeks old!) and I want to honor Amy's mom. Just watch the video and spread it around. If you can't give to the cause, I just want as many people as possible to hear her story!

Thanks for the help!

Hugh Weber

christina(apronstrings) said...

i used to be a nanny for a little girl who's mother had cancer. the mother had the same observation. she felt liek they were saying "wow, you don't look like you're dying." we should have to take a etiquette class or even classes. i mean so many of us don't know what to say.