When I was first diagnosed, I was with "A." I called him and said something to the effect of I am dealing with cancer, please don't leave me, quickly followed by something much more reasonable like if you're going to do it, please do it now, or at the very least please let me know what you are feeling. I didn't want him to stick around due to the diagnosis to only abandon ship later.
All I was looking for was for him to be honest with me about where he was. I may not like where he was, but if I was honest, I knew I could deal with it. His response was, "WE'll get through this." That was May of last year. In August I reaffirmed that he tell me what he was thinking. I asked him not to hang around just because of my diagnosis. I had heard stories, and I didn't want that to happen. In December, right as I was getting my first post-chemo Pet Scan results, and after a few weeks of feeling something wasn't quite right, and with him denying anything was up, he tells me that he was sticking around only because of my diagnosis.
I told him I hated him.
I was an emotional wreck, on the verge of tears all day. Even thinking about it now makes me tear up. I had asked him not to do that. I was more upset about the fact that he somehow thought it better to stick around and ignore what I said than to do what I requested. How could he know better what I needed than I did? He was so painfully, excruciatingly, wrong. To make matters worse - for me - he decided from that moment on that he didn't even want to talk to me. I went from talking to him most days, to nothing.
At some point, I needed a distraction, so I went on a site that I had a profile. It is for many a dating site. However I decided to use it as a way to just meet people. I said I was looking for a "friend." Granted it might have been unorthodox, and not exactly reasonable, but I often find that when I do things like that, there is a pay off.
One guy showed up. He and I met. I wore a wig, which he complimented me on, and at some point I decided to tell him what I was dealing with. He acted fine about it. I didn't feel like he was going to run away because of it. And yet, when we parted ways, he was no longer expressing an interest.
Coincidence? Perhaps. But then you just never know, do you?
Another guy showed up. I wasn't sure about him, but we also met. I also decided to tell him. He seemed to be OK, too. But this time I was ready for him to disappear. He didn't. At least not at first. It was quite wonderful, actually. We spent time together, and I was able to freely be myself. I wasn't trying to be anything I wasn't, and I even got to the point that I shared this blog with him. It was a nice situation, and he seemed to be supportive, and was enthusiastic. I loved that he just treated me as a person. I loved that I could freely be myself, and that we could talk about cancer - and many other things. There was clarity that it was a "friendship" situation, and there was even a couple of times he generously helped me financially.
That was...until...I told him that I had a recurrence. Suddenly he seemed to not know how to deal with me and my situation. Could it have been an excuse for something else? Perhaps. But again, I will never know. It actually annoyed me in how he handled it. (Previous blog entries talk about it.)
I know some women don't even try to reach out when they are dealing with cancer. They figure no one will be interested. They might be right. At the same time, there are many times I feel alone. There are many times I would like someone in my life that I can just be myself with. I figured if I approached things from a "friends" place, and something more developed, it could be a good thing. At least if I approached it that way, and I was who I was in all my glory, and the person could be who he was in all his glory, and there were no expectations, and something happened, then it could be a good thing.
There are times I feel a bit dishonest about my profile. There are currently images of me as I was, with my beautiful, now gone, hair. There are also two images now of me in a wig. Apparently people seeing the images think that the wigs are my hair. I have yet to correct anyone. I decided a while ago that I wasn't going to say anything about cancer until a first meeting. It would be at that time that I would decide if it was something I wanted to reveal. That would depend on whether or not I wanted to pursue something with the person. I saw no need to say anything otherwise.
It bothers me though. It bothers me that I don't feel like I can just say, "oh yes, I have been dealing with cancer in the last year" in the same way that I could say, "I have been going to the movies every week for the last year." One statement would likely be intriguing, the other I think likely to push all kinds of buttons. I thought if I was just myself before and during the meeting, the rest would take care of itself. Plus, as I am coming from a place of "friends," it seems to me there might be a different kind of dynamic and/or expectation around the news.
I could, of course, be wrong. But there are so many times I say that that I only wind up being right. I figure if someone sticks around, great. If not, then it obviously isn't meant to be. It's HIS loss, though because behind the word cancer is a person who has a lot to offer the world, and if all anyone sees or hears or experiences of me is cancer, they are missing out.
My heart goes out to others who may be in this situation. It sucks to have some label define you in another's eyes and define their interactions (or lack thereof) with you.
There are so many emotions and fears around this for me. What if I never again have an opportunity with someone in a relationship because they can't deal with my reality? Sadly, most people don't realize how many people are being diagnosed with cancer on a regular basis these days. Even seemingly healthy people are walking around with cancer growing in their body, and they don't know it yet. One day they're going to wake up like any other only to find out how much their life is about to turn inside out due to a 6 letter word. It will go beyond what they can imagine, and it will likely alter every relationship they currently have, or ever hope to have.
All at the same time, there will be a part of them that will want nothing more to be recognized for the heart and soul of who they are, and have ever been. They will discover how much they hate it when who they are to others is filtered by something that defines more who others around them are, then they themselves.
What I am trying to say is...we don't know what is going to happen from one minute to the next. We may try to mitigate our fears by staying away from the things we think we know. But the fact is that we really know nothing. If anything, a diagnosis shows how important it is to wake up and live life. It has the potential to make someone much more of who they are, and are meant to be. A relationship with someone is scary enough without a diagnosis, but seeing past one can likely be incredibly rewarding.
Of course, I am biased - especially when it comes to cancer. But this can apply to so many things, and in so many ways. Relationships have so many dynamics and questions and concerns. We just sometimes willingly, willfully ignore the issues in the pursuit of one. We can never totally remove fear or the risk that is involved when we get into a relationship with another. And sometimes being face-to-face with something is better than being surprised by it.
And, lastly there is the point of something pretty incredible being missed in the process of avoiding the fear and the risk. You not only stay away from the potentially bad, you also stay away from all of the good. None of us know how much time we got, but we still involve ourselves with others. There must be a reason. Plus, if you consider that there is limited time, you might also consider that the circumstances of life can be maximized in such a way that greater benefit comes in a shorter space of time.
We all have limited time. We just often forget that fact.
If you know of someone who is dealing with cancer, please realize that the biggest gift you can give them is yourself. Of course no one ever said gift giving is mandatory. But the fact is that it is also the best gift you can give yourself. Running away or avoiding the person will only likely make you feel badly or guilty, two "gifts" that you are probably better off without.
I am not sure why I wrote all this. I just felt I had to. I hope that it is helpful in some way. It is certainly perspective I wish I had before I became so intimate with cancer. But no one freaking talks about this stuff. Sadly, even if someone had, I might just have stayed away. If you are uncomfortable and here, I thank you. You are a much better person than I think I was.
Have a good night.
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