No matter where I go… the grocery store, the GAP, the bank or Home Goods, inevitably some very well meaning woman will come up to me with the head-nodding knowing smile and say, in a hushed tone, “I was exactly where you are 5 years ago and I just wanted to say you are going to be fine.”
I wish I were one of those women who are exotic enough to wear an animal print head scarf and big earrings and look…exotic. Instead, it must be pretty clear, with my pale skin and head wrap that I’m not from any other place except “Cancertown.”
At first, I’m surprised because for a moment, being out in the real world makes me feel normal and I forgot what I must look like. It’s like I’m a member of an underground society who accidentally went out in public wearing the secret organization’s headwear. Like Fred Flintstone walking around in the Loyal Order of the Buffalo Lodge hat. But then I remember and I acknowledge how nice it is of them to come up and say something.
Perhaps when I’m all through this, I’ll find myself approaching patients to offer a kind word, but for now, this isn’t a club I wanted to join. Sometimes I want to say, “So, wow – you had stents put in your eyes, lost your fingernails, puked in your sleep, got skin infections, gained 20 pounds, lost feeling in your hands and feet AND lost your hair?” Who knows, maybe they had an even worse experience! I do know that no matter what their treatment protocol and side effects were, getting through this does indeed create a bond with other folks who lived for a while in Cancertown. I’m just not a person who is comfortable being approached by people I don’t know. And I certainly hate the fact that I look like a “town’s person.” It also reminds me that there is a very good chance that once I am through this, there will be times when I will be shockingly reminded of this experience by seeing other woman out there in their “membership scarves”. I guess as long as I’m out there, things are in the plus column.