This is an excerpt from my book Diary of a Uniballer, now available in the Kindle store.
Because cancer holds such a unique place in our society, being a Cancer Patient at least temporarily defines me as a human. Once someone finds out I have cancer, they begin to tell me of anyone they have ever known that has had any type of cancer. I get it: the know someone who went through something similar, which means we will have some things in common. The way that I deal with my situation is this: cancer is a random disease. A very shitty disease that COULD kill me with shitty treatment options, but still a disease nonetheless.
I have never had any other serious health issues in my life, so there has never been a point where society deemed I require a lot of "support." The is support from my family and friends has truly been incredible. It is a fact that all of the calls / texts/ emails/ hospital visits and more from my friends and family helps tremendously.
The "other" support is a little odd to me. For example, in the hospital there are social workers, which translates to "hippy chick who doesn't want to work for corporate America and thinks they are helping out society." These are super granola crunchy hippy-types who work in the hospital. Their job is to walk around and offer "support" to all the cancer patients in Chemo Town. Maybe just the few I talked to happened to be terrible at their job, or perhaps this is another example of the many useless First World Jobs that keeps most of our country employed. Either way, these hippie chicks wander the cancer ward and chat with everyone whether the patients want to talk or not.
I will call the one that sits next to me “Sunshine”. Sunshine and her Supervisor come over to me while my friend is hanging out with me in Lockdown: CancerTown. Sunshine and Supervisor talk to me like a child, and I don't even know what they are offering in terms of "support." Do they expect me to want to talk to them one on one so they can remind me that chemo sucks and cancer sucks and none of this is fun? Yea no shit, lady. I feel like a giant sack of crap and I am practically living in the hospital for five days at a time, you didn't need to come over here to remind me of those facts.
The first thing they do that bugs me is they sit down without asking if I even want to talk. I work in sales, I know how annoying it can be to talk to a stranger when you don't really want to. My friend was nice enough to come hang out with me, and they just came over like I couldn’t wait to talk with them. At least ask "is now a good time to talk" or "do you mind if we talk with you for a minute?" Nope. They just grab a seat and sit down like I have been waiting all day for this magical moment with the social workers and their "support".
So Sunshine and Supervisor sit down, even taking one of the stools my friend was using as a makeshift ottoman.
"Hiiiiiii Ben. I am Sunshine, a social worker hereeee.... This is my Supervisor. We know how hard this is. We wanted to talk to you and see how you are doing..."
"Yep... Taking it one day at a time. Getting through it. The nurses are nice."
"Yea... We know it can be hard. Support is important."
I feel like I am talking to a stoner chick version of Bill Lumburg.
Sunshine continues. "We also know this can be hard financially."
Well now I am actually intrigued. Can they help pay for some of this six figure treatment?
"Oh... Well I should be ok with insurance. Do you have financial options?"
"No... but we we know that finances can be a concern."
No shit. These drugs and hospital time and full time nurse don't come free. I'm not an idiot. In fact, even though I haven't yet gotten a bill, I know it is expensive as anything on the planet. If you aren't offering a solution, why in the name of space and time are you sitting here asking me about money?
Sigh. Just blank stares back as if they are offering some sort of magical help to me in my time of need.
The other earthy crunchy offering the hospital has is an "Art Cart.” They have another hippy chick wander around in Birkenstocks providing artwork in the form of blank cards that I can draw on to pass the time. I don’t remember any chemo patients taking the extremely generous gift of a blank card in a paper bag. I might as well also get a "I went through chemo and all I got to do was make this shitty art card" t-shirt to go along with it.
If you are scoring along at home, Lockdown: CancerTown offers three kinds of juice, two kinds of crackers, social workers to "support" you, a harp lady, and an art cart. First World Problems are real.
Outside the hospital, extra credit support comes in the form of anyone who has had cancer or knows someone who has had cancer and wants to talk to me. Right now, I actually do have two friends who are going through cancer treatment, both of which are much more severe than what I have to deal with. I have had conversations with them about what is going on, and the crazy fact that we are both going through similar crap right now. Talking to a friend who is dealing with this shit is very helpful. Hearing from some random person that by chance had the same disease many years ago isn't quite the same thing.
At my brother's wedding on Friday, word had gotten around to a guest who had testicular cancer years before that I was going through treatment right now. He found me, introduced himself and showed off his LiveStrong bracelet to me. Six years ago he had an orchiectomy and the RPLND surgery, and has been cancer free ever since. I let him know I hope to join him soon in "cancer survivor" land instead of "cancer patient" territory. The most memorable exchange:
"Have you heard about Ride For Life?" he said to me.
"Is that some sort of bike ride or something?" I ask.
"No. I don't do bike rides or anything. It is a group that has parties and events for cancer survivors and supporters..."
"Oh. Ok. I will look it up."
Uh, thanks for letting me know about the cancer party?
Personally, I am a little confused by all of this "support" I apparently need to survive cancer. Once I am done with this crap, I will be happy to talk to anyone else going through the same or similar issues, and if I can offer help to someone else, it would be an honor to do so. For my treatment, unless someone can do this chemo for me, there really isn't a lot they can do to help. I genuinely appreciate all of the kind words and concern everyone has, but talking to someone who had cancer six years ago doesn't magically make my current cancer go away. I wish it did. If so, I would talk to all the cancer survivors I could find. Until then, I will have to get through whatever treatment comes my way, and be fortunate for the real support I get from my family and friends.
You can get the rest of Diary of a Uniballer in the Kindle Store.