Another chapter in my book (which truly only exists in my head) would be entitled “Cautionary Tales”. When people find out that someone has cancer, instinct tells them to share success stories. I am quite certain that I have done this myself. We found that hearing about someone’s uncle, cousin, friend, coworker was not always reassuring. It was not necessarily comforting, and sometimes it was actually annoying. We smiled and said “Thank you for sharing.” And we kind of meant it.
When Dave’s diagnosis was fresh in our heads, we couldn’t really process or appreciate these stories. We could understand that they were being shared for only the best of reasons. But no one told me a story about someone who had colon cancer that had metastasized to their liver in three spots and then went on to live to be 100. As people were sharing via email, phone, in person, I found myself thinking: not the same kind of cancer, not the same age, not male, other health problems, not the same stage. I was happy that their person had beat cancer and gone on to live a full and happy life. At the same time, I was bitter at the heaping pile of cancerous fate that we had been handed.
As we traveled on our new path for a while, it became easier and more comforting to hear stories. Over time, we could hear the positivity that was being gifted to us. I still have times when my eyes and brain glaze over when someone is sharing their story, and I hope that my lack of a poker face doesn’t offend. Because even if I don’t want to hear your tale, I do appreciate the underlying optimism, love, and support.
I guess this is my long winded way of saying to share your stories cautiously. Try to get a sense of how the person you are talking to is reacting. They will know your heart is in the right place. And they might appreciate it if you feign ADD and move on to another topic.
Please know that anything in the “Cancer for Dummies” writing is not aimed at anyone in particular. It is just my opinions and a reflection of what we are going through.