For two weeks following my latest cancer diagnosis, I became a social recluse. I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone, especially not anyone who didn’t know I had cancer a-bloody-gain and might casually ask, “How are you?” because replying, “I’m fine” would be lying but answering with the truth felt like a bit of the bombshell to drop in the middle of the school run.
Also, I didn’t want to make anyone late for work while they spouted all the usual ‘Shit-it’s-the-Big-C-think-of-something-positive-to-say’ phrases:
“The treatment’s marvellous these days isn’t it? I’m sure you’ll breeze through…”
“If anyone can do it, you can”
“You’re a fighter/you can kick cancer’s arse/keep smiling”
It’s not a criticism – I’m sure I’ve used these platitudes myself when ambushed by abject misery at inconvenient moments (e.g. trying to wrestle two small children to school before the bell AND bypass roadworks to get to work on time), but it means it’s easier to keep your fresh diagnosis and over-sensitive feelings to yourself. Preferably in a dark room with only Dr Google for company.
But this week, I have thrown open the windows again and permitted myself to come into contact with other actual people again. And you know what? It’s been great. I’ve always suspected I have lovely friends, and this week I’ve been hideously spoilt with cards and gifts and flowers and chocolates. Best of all, I’ve been treated to the same irreverent humour, gossip and banter as always.
And no-one has done the soft-smile head-tilt cancer face.
And whilst I’m sure there will be days ahead when I will need to retreat back to my gloomy room for a quiet cry about the injustice of it all (and I will be unapologetic in doing so), I’m hopeful that there will also be plenty more times when I can laugh so hard my cheeks hurt, right in the face of adversity.