Why This Smart Ass Does Not Kick Ass

Preface

People always tell me writing is therapeutic, and while I of course believe this, I never experienced it so viscerally until I began this post and the next.

I’ve mentioned many times in various posts that I loathe the battle language of cancer (the most pointed example is in The D-Word). I do not call myself a survivor because I have not died of something else yet, and some with Stage IV have animosity toward the word, rightly so. Battle, fight, warrior, kick cancer’s ass—all those words or phrases continue to rub me the wrong way, and I never questioned why. I guess I just assumed myself to be practical, pragmatic, and I’m just not the cheerleader type.

Then, I started a post about how the drop-off in activity and in amount of people in a beach resort town on Labor Day is similar to the weird quiet that happens when cancer treatment ends. It is nearly impossible to explain this kind of sudden absence of people, attention, and activity to those who’ve not experienced it. So I began writing and thought I should include some examples of beach life, what my experience has been living and working here all of my life. And that is where I veered off track. But as I wrote, I learned that this life I’ve led that is so entwined with the rhythms of beach life really influenced my way of thinking about cancer in ways I am still understanding. I learned something about myself…grrr, no, wait, I mean…good!

So this post is about how life-long residency at the beach shaped my views as a cancer patient. The next post, Labor Day, will be what started me thinking about it all.

eastcoast

Shopping Madness at the Beach

A couple of careers back, I worked in retail. Working in retail is a special kind of hell. At the beach, it takes a peculiar turn, especially on rainy summer days. All the “sister” stores under the management of the area supervisor are two hours away in the cities. The supervisor and staff members of those city stores never understood rainy beach days; at least while I still worked there (this was several years ago). Rain at the beach makes people shop and spend lots of money. So a GREAT business day would result, in which sales would be as much as ten times the normal day. Well, income-wise it would be great—but days like that are trying, customers are grumpy and angry at staff as if we caused the inconvenience in their vacation, the store would get destroyed, a lot of theft would occur, and it took a lot of work to restock and recover. In short, we earned our minimum wage and then some on those days.

When reviewing sales increases and decreases on a later conference call with other area stores, our beach store would get accolades on the “great day” and invariably would get asked, “what did you do?” Saying “it rained” was not an acceptable answer. “You and your staff should take credit for such an awesome day,” someone would chirp, probably a cheerleader type. I never would and here’s why: if I said “yeah, we sold the crap out of those t-shirts, we’re awesome, hurray for us,” that would mean I’d have to accept blame for the opposite. A store is always compared to the sales of the same day the previous year. I HATED days when it was sunny, and I could tell by the ginormous sales numbers from the year before that it had rained. “Why are your sales so much lower this year compared to last year?” the district supervisor would ask, sternly. And yes, again, “it rained on this day last year and this year it is a totally sunny day,” is not an acceptable answer. Someone had to be held accountable, for not leading, selling, motivating and what have you. But I refused to blame myself and the staff for something beyond our control. We could not sell t-shirts to people who opted to take advantage of a great beach day rather than go shopping.

I’ve been dealing with the influx and outflow of people to the beach, how that impacts things like traffic, how busy the grocery store will be, and just a bunch of other quirks I could never explain, for most of my life. But now I see how my resort business approach shaped my view of cancer.

I never took credit for a good thing that happened when I did not have anything to do with it, like rainy day sales, because I did not want to be blamed for not making it rain when sales tanked—because I cannot control the weather.

It is the same with cancer. I will NEVER blame anyone who dies of cancer as someone who failed to “think positive to overcome the disease” or who “just gave up, did not fight hard enough, a LOSER”. Those people died because cancer kills, and cancer causes death because medicine still cannot stop that. Cures still seem pretty far out of reach. The latest Pink Ribbon Blues essay reminds us that there is no link between positive attitude and surviving cancer. Treatment effectiveness was NOT a result of my adoption or rejection of “warrior” status.

Conversely, I am not going to label myself as some kind of cancer ass-kicker. I may be frustrated at the medical industry for not being as far into conquering cancer as I’d like, but I know that leaps have been made and I benefited directly from the current successes in medical knowledge, and from the decisions of my medical team. I did not kick cancer’s ass because I’m so positive—I am a curmudgeon when it comes to cancer, after all. And I’m lucky enough to not be Stage IV.

I’m glad the drugs and the medical team were effective, me and the insurance company (and the money I paid into my insurance plan) paid enough for those things, so I shouldn’t need to do any ass-kicking.

People throw around terms like optimist, pessimist. I just try to be a realist. A life of beach business brain got me here, apparently.

Thanks to gbpr

Doctors Denounce Cancer Drug Prices of $100,000 a Year

This came out the same time as the “Feel Good….” article in NY Times, but I’ve seen less about it.

Wrong

Let me start by saying bullying is horrible.

But I am questioning today how it is being confronted.

Watching another stupid morning show and for the second time this week I hear about some non-profit that pays for plastic surgery for kids who are bullied for some aspect of their physical appearance. Right now I am seeing a girl with larger-than-normal ears, and earlier this week I saw a segment about a girl with a larger-than-normal nose. The news reporters do a before and after, interviewing and showing close-ups the girls in both stages.

Can we list all the things wrong with this phenomenon?

  • Granted, I am writing in knee-jerk mode right now and have not researched this issue, but BOTH segments feature GIRLS who feel the need to change their appearance. I need not say more, do I?
  • How many times must I repeat the phrase “blaming the victim”? By getting surgery to rid the problematic physical feature, the bullied is getting modified, when it is the perpetrators that need serious behavior modification to make them less reprehensible human beings.
  • What about those bullied for aspects of themselves that cannot be changed….uh can anyone say sexual orientation? The message I hear is if you are bullied, change what it is about you that is the source of the bullying, and if it cannot be changed, you are shit outta luck.
  • This last one is harsh and cruel, but it needs to be said: a non-profit to pay for kids who cannot pay for plastic surgery, REALLY? Tons of people struggle with medical bills for life-threatening illness on a daily, boring—as in not featured in a news story on TV—basis, and no one cares, no one gives money. I remember being so angry and guilty for that anger this summer upon hearing about how hospitals were treating financially challenged victims of the midnight movie shooting spree free of charge. So, if you are poor and you are lucky enough to get harmed in a life threatening way that is newsworthy, you don’t have to worry about medical costs? But if you are an everyday American, say with cancer, struggling in an unfair medical system, too bad, so sad? If I get cancer again, it will be catastrophic for me financially. If I die, I will just be another casualty of our fucked up health care system, and there will be no non-profit, no news story.

Maybe that should be a news story. Here’s my number Anderson Cooper, call me maybe.