Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I Don't Know What To Say

What do you say to someone with cancer? Hello works great. Pretty simple, huh?

Once I told people I had cancer, I noticed there were quite a few people who didn't know what to say to me. There would be an uncomfortable look or an awkward "how you doing. I mean, I know how you're doing. But not really. You doing OK? I mean, what's OK, right?" Someone actually said that to me. I felt really bad for them.

Kaity had referred a book to Teresa and I. Crazy Sexy cancer Tips, Kris Carr. Foreword by Sheryl Crow. My favorite part of the book is Chapter Two. Chapter Two contains tips #2 thru #14 and those tips deal with the beginning of cancer. In her book she really goes into some great detail, a lot of it about communication, expression and connections. She helped me be able to talk about cancer, my cancer. Kris, if you ever read this, thank you for the life preserver.

One of the strange things that happened to me during my cancer––and there are many strange things that happened––is I felt I had a big neon sign on my head that flashed "cancer here". Or I would feel like I had this great big secret that I was carrying with me everywhere I went. I would go to the grocery store and walk around thinking these people in here have no idea I have cancer. They don't care. They can't see it. Do any of them have it?

With head & neck cancer, the outer portion of my body didn't reveal I had cancer. No visable signs, unless you knew that I was in the midst of losing 30 pounds, knew I always had a ton of hair on my face but now shaved twice a week and knew that under my shirt I had a cable stuffed into my stomach. Most of my physical damage was on the inside––no more tonsils, missing part of my tounge from surgery, no saliva, jaw not opening all the way, no energy, chemo brain––and I tried to keep it that way. I felt being the Dad and being the Boss at work, I had to keep a smile on my face so they would be comforted. Don't let them worry. Don't let them know you're hurting 24/7. Don't let them down. Don't give cancer a chance.

Then again, that's what I saw and experienced. I sure people would tell me otherwise. Tell me things I didn't see or hear. Tell me how glad they are I'm still here. Tell me hello.

Hello has never sounded so good. I never get tired of hearing it.

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