The Dawkter's Wife - It's all champagne and caviar now … dahling

Surviving Cancer,The Loony Bin

October 24, 2010

Everybody hurts…

This afternoon was truly remarkable.

We invited some people that we met recently to come over to watch a German movie with us.  The man is an American who teaches German at a neighboring school.  His wife is a scientist from Denmark.  He came to America when the school year started, and she followed him with their 2 year old daughter only a few months ago.  She is working part-time from home with her previous employer doing science writing, but they haven’t made many contacts locally.

I thought about canceling a few times over the last two days because frankly, I’m so socially awkward and I have so much difficulty getting through social situations like this.  It is really hard for me to just relax and enjoy talking with people.  I spend way too much time worrying about whether or not there will be an awkward silence and what questions I can ask them to fill any potential gaps in the conversation.  It stresses me out.

A movie seemed like a simple alternative to having to … you know … actually communicate with people <I’m rolling my eyes at myself, I really am> while still being able to enjoy their company.

After they arrived, we sort of fell naturally into a conversation that … wasn’t all that stressful after all.

In the middle of our conversation about Minnesota, she mentioned Rochester and a recent visit that she had had to Mayo … then she seemed to realize that she had given away information about herself, and said “I’ve been treated for cancer twice”.  She said it like I would say it … awkward, and uncertain about revealing it and fearful that it would make us feel uncomfortable.  She said it like she was trying to brush over it…pass the chips, I was treated for cancer twice, can you hand me a napkin….that’s how I read it.

She kept talking about something else, so I waited until she was finished and asked her what cancer she had been treated for.

She looked completely uncomfortable when she said the word lymphoma…and…tried to jump back into the previous conversation.

I had lymphoma too.  I was pregnant with Zoe (who was running around with her daughter) at the time.

We stood for a moment in silence…the hurricane force winds of emotion welling up… four adults who barely knew each other caught up in a swirling and overpowering understanding that our lives are more similar than we could have ever imagined.  We have cried the same tears, felt the same fears, lived with the same overwhelming emotions….

Our stories tumbled out of us. Thomas walked over to me and put his arms around me…

We stood in silence…

And then the moment ended.  We prepared to get the movie running and decided to take one last look at the little ones upstairs before settling down in front of the TV.  She and I walked up the stairs together and as we turned the corner on the landing to head up the next flight, she turned and hugged me. “I’m so glad that I met you”, she said.

Me too.

I nearly had a breakdown in our local grocery store over the pink balloon ribbons, t-shirts, plates, yogurts and flower bouquets that someone vomited up all around the store.  Saturday was a save the tatas day here complete with a mobile mammogram truck and live music playing in the produce department.  I’m not kidding.  Live musicians singing sad songs while women shared their stories.

It isn’t that I’m not interested in other people’s stories.  I am.  The pink was just plain overwhelming to me.  People were coming into the grocery store arm in arm…daughters with their breast cancer survivor mothers, grandkids clad in pink…pink hats, pink t-shirts….people with HAIR dyed pink.  Really.  I’m not kidding.  I walked around the store feeling … this feeling … that I couldn’t identify… anger? sadness? loneliness?  I don’t wear lime green lymphoma ribbons in September or sport lime green Survivor t-shirts.  I could, I suppose.  I just don’t.  I don’t notice anyone else doing it. The only cancer that is politically correct to talk about is breast cancer.

I walked around the grocery store feeling my heart pounding in my chest.  I thought I was going to cry … or just be really rude to someone.  I thought about leaving several times, but I thought it would be childish to walk out.  I support anyone with cancer.  I don’t want to take away from the breast cancer survivors or those who are fighting the cancer…but honestly, sometimes I feel like they are taking something away from me and survivors of other kinds of cancers because the focus is so pink … For the Cure has been trademarked…

Maybe it bothered me so much because I don’t have anyone in my life besides Thomas and my mom who understands…who will still listen if I need to talk  … who can transport themselves to that time and offer support.  This year in December will be 5 years since my journey began.  Five. Years.  I imagined by now that this would be a distant memory.  Get over it. Move forward. Life goes on.

It doesn’t work like that.

The additional health struggles that I’ve had have only highlighted what a …. difficult experience this has been for me.  I am changed….for the better in many ways…but I am changed.  No one in my life really wants to know about it…at least I don’t think they do.  Am I the problem?  Am I just not willing to share myself with other people who would be willing to listen?  I don’t know.

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