All the Worst Cancer Lessons

talking shitOf course it’s the toilet topics that drag me back to this abandoned blog.

Yes, I’m referring to the “poop plume” reports that were everywhere last week (or was it the week before???). You know what I’m talking about, right? That when you flush a toilet all these microscopic particles rise into the air, and if those particles are from someone with COVID, well, YOU—the person also in the public restroom—could get infected. This is the reason I refused to use a public restroom since March. I knew this. I knew it because just prior to entering into chemo treatment I had to take a “chemo class” in which the importance of closing the toilet lid was taught. Hell, I actually knew it before from an article I’d read years before. But I confess, I didn’t remember it until I was sitting in that class. Didn’t matter; I’ve always closed the lid and kept it shut. I dislike open toilets—always have.

My point is, this was just another thing in a long list of stuff that cancer patients, current and former, learned from having cancer. And I was just like, ENOUGH!  

Yes, I saw right away, as shut-downs began, all these “lessons” from cancer were going to come into play. I kicked myself for not having written my long promised (threatened?) “shitty” cancer lessons listicle. And then my brain and soul shut down in panic. So, I was quiet for a bit—I just could not bear to read any of the cancer-COVID pieces.

The first stupid lesson, that I momentarily forgot—I made a cancer-rookie mistake—was the “marathon-not-a-sprint” error. You know what I mean—that thing we as cancer patients experience in the beginning. All the communities want to “help”, to “do something”, and it’s this mad rush, this outpouring of generosity that cannot possibly be sustained. Kind of like how everyone buys cancer patients food and books right after diagnosis, but after a year or so of treatment, when some of us need help the most, everyone disappears.

I’m ashamed to say I took part in that mad rush in the first weeks myself. I was just NOT grasping the scope of a true pandemic. I made myself super busy, trying to collect and report info about how kids in need could get free lunches with schools closed. This was a slice of my social media management job I do for a non-profit. I was in a frenzy trying to collate all the random resources popping up—because it was a mess. Just organizations and businesses all doing their own thing—no structure.  It took me a few days then I realized it: this will die down. This outpouring will end with a whimper. And it is NOT my place to force structure on it, at any time.

So, there is the “close the toilet lid” lesson, and the “marathon-not-a-sprint” lesson. What are some others that I recognized—with a stab into my heart every single time?

Let’s see—there is the whole “language” thing. The framework applied to COVID as “enemy” (it’s not a sentient being, therefore not capable of evil intent, but whatever!), this situation as a “war”, and countless store signs urging us to be #MarylandStrong (or whatever town or province is applicable). Part of the language games, naturally, is the labeling of “heroes”. Because we need heroes in a war, right? Predictably, then came those who rejected the label of hero—not that I blame them at all. Healthcare workers didn’t want the label, they wanted PPE. Grocery workers didn’t want the label, they wanted better pay. It was just….my entire cancer experience played out on some grand scale, inescapable.

And yes, the conspiracy theories kicked in rather quick, didn’t they? And the anti-vaxxers who like to come into cancer culture and make a mess, well, they are still messing in COVID.

Worst of all for me—which will have to be a future, separate, blog post—is the economic inequality. Not just that, but the fact that people are so inexcusably ignorant about it. It’s always so painful to read something written by a musician I admire in which they stupidly say “we’re all in this together.” No, just—NO.

I guess I’m just frustrated reading and hearing so many people on the news say something we as cancer patients have known for so long. I remember listening to one of my regular pods and the hosts discussing how shocked, shocked!!, I tell you, that someone died of COVID at age 29 but when it was revealed she was a bit overweight, all the “patient blame” started in. DUH! How many times have cancer patients talked about that (see here)?!

It just proved to me, once again, that until some people experience a thing up close and personal, they just…don’t get it.

I could dive deeper into that previous sentence, what with all the privileged germ carriers invading my resort town, all the nastiness taking place…but I just don’t have the stomach for it right now. It really is too much.

So that’s where I am right now. Totally “triggered”. Trying to hang onto a sliver of sanity. Exposing myself to the worst of this whole thing in my political volunteering, then healing myself with my one remaining paying gig creating “uplifting” social media posts. (Crazy, right? Me, the absolute Curmudgeon creating that kind of thing! But I do it!)

Until next time….when I come back here to scream about my biggest and worst fear, which has been magnified by the pandemic.

Peace to you.  

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.

3 thoughts on “All the Worst Cancer Lessons”

  1. Oh I get ya. Just as COVID had been rising , my lymphedema too was infiltrating my body in stage 3 ways I had not imagined. A flair, thought I, and simplistic “sprint” thinking went back into CDT *as if* my lymphedema was still a mild case. As COVID cases expanded, so did my arm. Wrapping (CDT with bandages by therapist) made it worse.( Trump advice with COVID?) Now, have shredded shoulder tendon, fibrotic tissue in arm. Waiting word from Lymphedema (cardiologist) expert at Stanford. Yes, Surviving is not new normal, nor is it a sprint back to normal, just, well exactly like COVID.

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  2. Thank you for this article! I love reading it cuz I’m not alone. So thank you with all my heart for taking the time to write & blog! Your words help me feel connected cuz God knows ppl who never had cancer just “don’t get it” even tho their intentions are well meaning.

    Like

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