Ass U Me

The universe tried to remind me of something last week: people like to comment on a situation, with an air of expertise, and they know NOTHING about that which they speak. Dear Universe, please, a less drastic reminder.

I was in a severe auto accident a week ago. I follow a local newspaper on Facebook because it helpfully posts accidents that clog up traffic–so I can use alternate routes if possible. This time I was part of the clog–tho I was NOT the cause (more in a minute). I noticed 18 (!) comments on the post, and wondered what on earth people could have to say about the situation. Ha! Things like, “that intersection is awful”, general derision about the state’s inability to reduce the accidents, and my favorite: “stop tailgating”.

All the comments are true; the intersection known as 5 Points (because it is a 5 way intersection, not a normal 4 way intersection) is a mess and the site of numerous accidents, and not just in tourist season. And cars do tailgate and get stuck in the middle and cause gridlock. But none of these things applied in this particular accident on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what REALLY happened:

I was heading south on Rt 1 around 12:50 PM to pick someone up from an appointment, and was not using my own car for once. Traffic light was green and there were no other cars along side of me–highly unusual in that dreaded intersection. As I rolled along I noticed a car coming at my left. It seemed to be speeding up, NOT slowing, as it should’ve been. I started to brake, looking to see if I could swerve to get away. I was angry and scared, what the hell was this car doing, coming at me like that?! Next thing I knew I was spinning, I was being shaken, loud crunch, loud pop of the airbag as it whooped me upside the head.

The 2 kind men who pulled me out of the car filled me in on what happened, on what I could not see. The driver of the other car was sitting in the middle of northbound traffic, impaired/asleep/something and people had been honking horns at him. He came to, and just slammed on his accelerator, right into me, and then into another car heading east, as he had been heading west.

I don’t know why he was unconscious in the middle of traffic, and it doesn’t matter, ultimately. Point is, it was the main contributing factor in the accident, and it could happen at any intersection. Just like other locals, I moan about 5 Points and the poor driving decisions made there by frustrated tourists wanting to rush their vacation, or other laborers like myself, just trying to not be late for work or appointments. Numerous accidents there compile a bundle of stats citizens use in their attempts to get the State Highway Administration to take some action. I joined that stat pile I guess, except the idiocy of the intersection’s design really, really, made no difference this time.

Yeah, that tire can’t be put back on–the rod is broken, the brake line, all of it, just, severed.

I wanted so bad to jump into the comment thread and ask these people why they assumed various factors (and what happens when we assume–hint, look at post title). The newspaper’s post was short on details–it merely stated it was a 3 car accident, traffic clogged–maybe use a different route if possible. It did mention that one person was taken away via ambulance, it did not specify which person. I could tell them it was the driver who caused the accident. I had no detectable injuries. I still do not know what is going on with him. The car I was driving is damaged beyond repair. The pics of the damage are scary enough to make me realize if impact had occurred a millisecond different, things might have been disastrous for me indeed.

I sit here a week later, reviewing, finally emerging from a state of shock or stun, wrapping my head around it. Yes, I did attempt to go to urgent care later that day, but I had no visible problems and the facility I went to would NOT treat any head injury (mainly my ear hurt from the air bag). Hell yeah I was super sore the next day, but that cleared up within days. I’m still shaken, but I cannot afford to be jittery about it. I avoided the intersection for a couple of days, but my job requires travel through that area multiple times a day, so I had to get over myself. I’m not saying I didn’t curl up in a ball of fear for a day–that did happen–but it’s fine now. But I couldn’t help thinking about this, ummmm, shall we call it Instant Expert Syndrome?

Haven’t we all been through this as cancer patients? Especially with all the awareness now–this awareness that doesn’t lead to education and understanding? Lung cancer patient? Yep, people ASSume a smoker, because they’ve been told for years about links between smoking and cancer. So they cannot imagine other scenarios, that non-smokers can get lung cancer too, for instance. Any gyno-type cancer? Yep, the ASSumption she didn’t get pap smears, never mind that particular screening method is NOT for ALL the cancers. And the biggest ASSumption, that is my personal bug-a-boo, the conflation of screening=prevention. That somehow, it is a patient’s fault they got cancer if they did not do regular screenings. Or didn’t get a genetic testing (see all the judgement flung at Jolie a few years ago–ugh, I cannot revisit it, too awful). A few facts have stuck in people’s heads and they are unable to imagine OTHER factors, that they often do NOT know the whole story. And slogans like “screening saves lives” confuse people to the point they think “screening prevents cancer”, and we know that is so not true.

Now, here’s the part when a reader would say–who cares what other people think? True, I kind of don’t care what others think–about the car accident. I know it wasn’t my fault, and telling people crazy accidents happen at ANY intersection, even the most well designed, won’t make any difference. Not my job to warn people about it–that is what driver’s ed is for.

But I am re-committed (again) to trying  to educate/advocate/make-people-understand various facts about cancer. I’m tired of dumb stigmas. I’m tired of awareness without understanding. Again, er, still. So, still, I will continue to make others understand the reality of cancer, not the slogan version, to which they bring those incorrect assumptions to fill in the blanks of stuff they don’t know. Because, clearly, that is what humans do: create a story based on a few details–and are so, so wrong.

Epilogue:

Other fall out from this damn accident is me having to grapple with something I have submerged all these years away from DX–this need for safety, security, routine, predictable days. I’ve never been particularly  adventurous or a risk-taker. But after treatment, I just wanted nothing big to happen to me ever again–even something good if there could be a “trade-off” of no bad big things happening to me (I know that isn’t how it works, I’ve written posts about that). I just wish…the Universe hadn’t clobbered me again last week.

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

9 thoughts on “Ass U Me”

  1. OMG, I’m glad you are okay. Is your head/neck/hearing on that side all right? As another person who drives all day for work, I can make myself nuts just noting all the near misses over the years. And colleagues have been seriously injured in car accidents. As for that driver, is this person alive still, do you know? Everything from texting to having a stroke goes through my mind. Yikes. And, yes, people make such stupid assumptions, instead of asking questions and waiting for answers. And not just about cancer. Don’t get me started… xxoo, Kathi

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    1. Thanks Kathi! Yeah, my left ear WAS ringing, and it seemed my ears needed to pop for a couple of days, then it was fine.
      I don’t know anything more about the other driver; given that he was slumped over, and sort of came to, according to the witnesses, sounds like some kind of health thing.
      Yeah, assumptions, I’ve been hyper mindful of this in terms of cancer, but not so much in other areas, and I’m guilty too. I was bitching about that dog that died on the airplane a few weeks ago–never read any articles about it and made a bunch of assumptions about behavior of all involved while ranting (out loud to someone). It was part of a larger conversation about being monitored all the time, being on film all the time–long story. Sigh, guess we don’t know what we don’t know ha ha! xoxox

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  2. Hi CC,
    First of all, I’m so glad you are okay. The accident sounds very scary, which I guess, is a dumb thing to say because what accident isn’t? And yes, that Instant Expert Syndrome, I like the way you tied accidents and cancer together with that. Assumptions are harmless until they’re not. I even wrote a post with that title. I don’t really care what people think either, or so I tell myself, but then again if that were really true, I probably wouldn’t still be blogging. Anyway, again, I am very relieved you’re okay and happy you’re back in the fray – trying to make at least a few out there understand about breast cancer reality. Isn’t there a hashtag something along those lines? ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep–all that reality, LOL.
      Thanks for seeing the tying together about assumptions–I mean as I reflected, I just started thinking, geez this has happened to me before, hasn’t it? All the times I’ve had to correct when others made an assumption about my type of cancer (argh, don’t even wanna go there in terms of HER2 positive and all that, bleh).
      I’ve been tying LOTS of threads together, amazing how all these years in cancer culture advocacy and stuff is so very much life political activism. It’s all so alarmingly similar. And yeah I want to get back in the fray–trying to stay off of my 2 political Twitter accounts–what a time suck! xoxoxo

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  3. Somehow, having a comments area attached to traffic condition website sounds odd but a national park we visit has an animal trail-cam where you can check out who has ambled by. Bears, Deer, Coyotes, Mountain Goats, Raccoons and Elk with huge antler sets. While I don’t think they do an all-species traffic report, the site does feature a place for human comments. I would never know what to say to animals–other people do.
    Sorry about the accident, air bags are a real surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Airbags and seat belts are crazy and they can hurt, but….imagine if they weren’t there, sigh.
      Hmmm, I’m imagining this animal cam and I think I would just be bummed out–people commenting on something awesome they see and I’d have missed it! I’m on the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic right next to the ocean. It’s all deer and seagulls and argh, roadkill. Oh and the Assateague ponies of course, but I avoid them–too many mosquitoes!
      Thanks!

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