a little c

because I refuse to give it a big one

Mythology and the Reality of Me

Posted by wendy on 2012/03/31

If I had a nickel for every instance in which someone said “You’re so brave” immediately after finding out I had cancer,  I’d have all my medical bills paid for.  Well, that’s not true.  I’d need at least $500 for every instance of it in order to pay for all of them.  (and, hey, if anyone wants to get on that, please–be my guest.) It’s a nice sentiment, but if you just met me…how would you know?  I mean, really.

The truth is that I probably spend way more time being completely terrified of everything than the average person does.  You get a blemish on your body?  You just Clearasil that sucker and move on.  I get a blemish?  I google skin cancer and then spent about an hour hyperventilating into a bag.    (Maybe one day, I’ll have M guest blog and he can tell you how many google-ledges from which he has talked me down.)   Just the simple act of having cancer doesn’t make one brave–believe me, I wish it did.

It doesn’t make us automatically noble, either.  I’ve done plenty of bad things in my life.  I’ve done things I’m not proud of–and I’ve done them since my diagnosis.  I’m human, I screw up. And, cancer is no respecter of morals or actions.  It doesn’t only happen to good people.  (if it did only happen to the good and noble, we’d all be kicking puppies and stealing candy from babies left and right, wouldn’t we?)  mmm…candy.  Wow.  It may well be a good thing there are no babies around me right now, because I could TOTALLY go for a Snickers.  😉

So, cancer doesn’t make us angels on pedestals. We’re just…people.  We are capable of amazing acts of bravery, and we can be shockingly selfish.  The thing is, we’re doing all of this while being repeatedly hit with the shitstick, (see?  THIS BLOG CONTAINS SWEARS!!  But, if I called cancer the daisystick, it just wouldn’t sound quite right–nor would it be accurate, would it?), so I think those heroic acts are exacerbated and the selfish stuff gets a pass.  (hey, as it should–cause..hellooo, when life is hitting you with a shitstick, it’s very difficult to get around.)

There are so many myths about cancer out there.  I think that’s the double-edged sword that we have with the internet.  There is so much information out there–so much of it is helpful and informative, and so much of that information comes in the form of..well, for lack of a better term..bullshit.   How do you know if what you’re getting is real or fake?  Well, if you are getting your science and health information from conservapedia (no links–if you really want to check out some delusional stuff, then feel free to google it.), then you are not nearly as informed as you think you are.   Cancer.org is a good place to start looking, as is Breast Cancer Action.  What other sites do you use for information?  Feel free to leave a link.  🙂

Where was I going with this? Well…None of us are any more or less entitled to treatment than others based on our personalities, our religious beliefs, our political standing.  Very few of us want your pity.  Occasionally, we need your help (and a Cherry Limeade from Sonic wouldn’t hurt–I’M JUST SAYIN’).  Always, we need respect, clear and correct information, and a place to let our voice be heard.

16 Responses to “Mythology and the Reality of Me”

  1. I think people let their fear get the best of their brains when they talk to people who have dealt with issues (be it illness, abuse, death) they don’t want to deal with. They say, “you’re so brave,” because they are terrified of facing it and momentarily (I am being generous, there) forget that these are experiences that nobody chooses.

    When I tell people my life story (very, very rarely, and always over whiskey), I tend to get similar reactions. I know they mean well, but it’s so very, very condescending on one side of it and pitying on the other. And I hate it. Because it was never about being brave, or strong. It wasn’t about facing what I was going through with stoic resolution. It was just about surviving each day, getting through each moment.

    My favorite reaction after telling somebody my story was, “So. You’re still alive. Good job. Seriously. Keep doing that. We’re out of Jameson.” She’s one of my best friends for a reason.

  2. wendy said

    That is my favorite thing I have ever heard anyone say. You have excellent taste in friends.

    • My friends, especially my close friends, are pretty astoundingly awesome. That is just one such example. I am a very, very lucky Whiskeypants. In that regard, anyway.

      Chrome doesn’t think “whiskeypants” is a word. Just another hurdle to overcome…

  3. Oh, lordy…

    I hate the ‘brave’ thing. Like we have any choice but to get treatment, to put one foot in front of the other, even tho’ we’re scared shitless most of the time. Oy. We’re not heroes, we’re not angels, we don’t magically become ‘better people’ because we have cancer. As I wrote in an early post (Almost Normal), ‘what kind of a jerk do you have to be in the first place if it takes something as wretched as having cancer to “make” you a better person? What, you couldn’t do better on your own? Who the heck were you before? Bernie Madoff? Hitler, for god’s sake?’

    Me? I cuss more now. A lot more.


  4. I love you more with every word you write, I swear. Why on earth did it take me so long to get into your virtual space?!

  5. oh I LOVE this post! brave? pffft! if I could have, I would have jumped out of my body and run away…bravery is a choice. cancer isn’t – no way I’m brave. But I AM swearing more 😉

  6. Dee said

    Love your blog. Very refreshing. I too have heard how brave I am. My response is usually – I did what I had to do to live. Or I hear-” I could never do chemotherapy” . Yup that was true for me too but you know what I’ve done it – 9 cycles the first time and 6 cycles the second time.
    Please keep sharing so I can keep reading.

  7. I never liked labels before cancer and now after, well they really seem to rub me the wrong way. I think it’s because, as you said, “we’re just people.” We aren’t strong, brave, tough or any of those things. We just are and just like everyone else all we really want, again as you said, is “respect, clear and correct information, and a place to let our voice be heard.” Amen to that. Great post. Thank you.

  8. AnneMarie said

    I don’t know HOW I missed your blog but I’m glad I found you now. I like the way you think. Lots. Keep on…. Carry on! I was accused of negativity. I say, not negative, just the truth…. You are honest, too. And funny!!

  9. Chandra said

    Love this! Until we live in a world that looks straight on at death, we will all get the sideways glances followed by “you’re so brave” or “now don’t be negative” if you dare say anything realistic about anything involving cancer. Love this post.

  10. Chandra said

    Apparently I have chemo brain even though I, thankfully, didn’t have chemo (not that my first oncologist told me about Oncotype Dx…no, I had to read about it at http://www.dslrf.org and in The Breast Book). Kinda forgot I’d started by loving your post. What the heck. It’s good enuf for two loves!

  11. Girl, this is so right on! Nicely done.

  12. A lot of people just don’t know what to say and it brings up enormous self doubt. For me, I just blow another bubble and say “just doin what comes naturally”. But I love your post.

  13. Wonderful post! Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel.

  14. I love this posting. I’ve written about the cancer narrative, too — the myth of the noble sufferer and brave person. It’s totally false. I know what you mean about hyperventilating. I get a blood test and I freak out. We cancer patients/survivors are no more brave than anyone else. I am scared sh*tless everytime I have to see a doctor. I tremble when I get an ache and pain.

    This posting really spoke to me. I’ve now included your blog on my blogroll.

  15. Kelli Register said

    I love this!! If hiding under my blankets and eating chocolate would have cured my cancer, that’s what I would have done! I made a choice to live, not be brave. Chemo, baldness, and all the rest was just part of the deal.

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