Cancer isn't a happy topic and it isn't always easy to know how to respond or what's appropriate to say. This blog offering isn't critical of anyone (this cancer journey is bearable because of all my friends and family's support) but I do want to knock down a couple of taboos.
One of the slightly more random side effects of cancer is other people's embarrassment about being ill around you. I appreciate that cancer is pretty much up there in the hierarchy of diseases but at the end of the day other people's illnesses, colds and trials still count.
Whether it's a rotten cold, a chronic ailment, a condition that means you're worried you might never be able to fall in love for fear of passing it on or a searing headache; pretty much anything (other than man flu) is deserving of sympathy. Cancer doesn't make anyone else's sinuses less blocked, tiredness vanish or stress and worry disappear, so please feel free to have a cold and don't feel bad about telling me. I will still drum up sympathy and look kind. I'm not about to pull out the cancer card and play top trumps. Plus I've had a cold/tummy bug all week and it's been horrible.
And the other thing is that other than having a life threatening illness I am actually quite well (despite the weird cold/tummy bug) So it's okay to say to me 'I hope you're well'. Being well is what is keeping me going throughout this thing, that and a full time job, three kids, two dogs, a cat, and a loving husband. I feel well. I don't take painkillers, once I'm off the steroids I stop eating like a person possessed. And when the post-chemo week is over I'm actually pretty energetic. I even talk about exercise. Oh yes. I have plans. Unfulfilled. But I plan to exercise a lot.
Cancer isn't easy for anyone and there are topics I'd rather avoid. Some of my fellow patients on the chilworth day unit may love recounting how many people they know who've died, but I hate it. I don't like hearing how desperately hard cancer is and I don't like pity; but I can still empathise, and I need encouragement so please keep saying that you hope I'm well because I hope so too.