I sat with this tan and handsome couple as the sun set on a sweltering summer night. I asked lots of questions about how they met, their relatives, their pets, their favorite vacation spots. After they left, I also realized that I had so many questions that I had carefully edited out of the evening. I wondered what ALS felt like; how our friend was coping with his diagnosis; how his wife got herself through the hardest times. Those questions led me to this post.
I am very aware that even in my non-steroid-induced blogs, I often blab on. I write stories and metaphors and quotes and…blah blah blah. Anyone who arrives at this blog now, having missed the first...wait let me check...the first 249 posts, is likely just overwhelmed. I agree, it’s pretty overwhelming, and I've covered a lot of ground here in the last eleven months.
(Please note: Thanks to my brother, there’s a little Search bar at the top of the blog page and if, for instance, you want more information about a double mastectomy, you can type that phrase into the box and all of the blogs in which I mention it will pop up.)
In the next blog or two, on the heels of a post about how much I want to be myself, I’m going to try hard to not be. I’m going to get to the point—no metaphors about snow or stories about people I love or montages that will make you cry. Instead, just straightforward answers to ten questions.
These ten questions are ones that I have been asked several times, or ones that I’m almost certain people have wanted to ask but never felt it appropriate to do so. They are questions that I'm sure I would want to ask if I wasn't going through this myself. I could write (or maybe have already written) a lengthy post responding to each one of these questions. But in the upcoming few posts, I'm going to answer these questions succinctly because despite my usual blabbing, I really do believe that there is great value in brevity.
One last point. I was reminded on Friday night that people with serious illnesses can be intimidating in an odd and endearing sort of way. For many people, we are living proof of one of their worst nightmares; of the reality that none of us will live forever. They think that we're fragile, both physically and emotionally, and they're scared that something they say or do could hurt us. Yes, I guess it could. Maybe it's just easier to stay away, they may think, consciously or subconsciously. But the brave ones come close anyways.
I understand from my own experiences in the kingdom of the well that people in the kingdom of the sick may seem more complicated than everyone else. I hope that this blog, along with the hundreds of others, help us all remember that ALS, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, or any other potentially terminal illness are all just circumstances. They don’t make us less of a person or more of one. They just make us all more aware of what it really means to be alive.
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What (I Think) You May Want to Know
1. Did you ever feel that you had cancer?
Nope. I never felt sick or tired or anything. I just felt a lump in my left boob the very first time that I checked my saggy pancakes for cancer. I would have thought the lump was just a normal part of my boob except that I didn't feel the same thing on the other side. I figured asymmetry was bad. Turns out that it was.
To be continued...
If you have a question you'd like to add to this list, please comment below.
2. Is your cancer in remission?
3. When will you be all done with treatment?
4. How much do you worry about dying?
5. Do you have any regrets about your treatment or surgery?
6. Can you have any more biological kids? If not, why not?
7. What were some of the most (and least) helpful things that people did for you this past year?
8. What have you told your kids about your cancer?
9. Have you done anything to prepare for your own death?
10. Did cancer change you? If so, how?