I ran into my next door neighbour in the hallway last night and had a wee chat. She is always very interested in my health but in a way I find somewhat alarming. Like last night she asked how I was feeling. I said, “Really good, thanks.” To which she then asked, “No re-occurrence yet?” Yes, meaning she had indeed casually enquired as to whether my cancer had returned yet.
My answer? “Nooooooo…well, not that we know of.”
I mean, jeeeeez...
I usually take most of these kind of interactions in stride because for the most part I believe folks who ask probing (albeit inappropriate) questions and offer unsolicited advice really mean well. I’d like to think that it just comes out wrong sometimes. Sometimes VERY wrong.
I’ve mentioned that I have an in-law who has dealt with breast cancer under vastly different circumstances than me who has in the past declared that as long as I have a positive attitude I will be just fine. I truly agree with the spirit of her statement but really LOATHE how simplistic and, frankly Pollyannaish it sounds. I’ve had relatives who have died of cancer who had fantastic attitudes. I’ve also heard stories of people who were convinced they were going to die from cancer and then totally recovered. Obviously keeping a positive attitude isn’t the whole story of cancer recovery. The fact is that, yes, having a positive attitude can help you get through the vast mountains of shit you have to go through with cancer treatment but feeling tip top all the time just isn’t possible and no one should ever feel guilty about having a bad day, or days for that matter. There are times when you are convinced you are going to die or you feel like you cannot take one more second of the physical and mental tolls. Days where you hate that you are dependant on others and that this stupid disease has not only royally fucked up your life, even temporarily, but has also affected the lives of those you love. Nobody facing a terminal cancer diagnosis should ever be made to feel that they were not positive enough to cure themselves. In fact I would say that (in my opinion) if I met someone who didn’t have a bad day or twenty going through treatment I’d be pretty sure there was some serious denial of some pretty heavy duty feelings going on. And I believe that is more dangerous than being true to yourself and how you feel.
Ok-so thankfully my neighbour didn’t get into the whole attitude thing this time around but she did get into what I call the Uninformed Shoulds. This is when people tell you what you SHOULD be doing spewing off info they heard from their aunt or from the internet or some other Oracle of Extreme Truth. Once again I know this comes from a good place and I appreciate the sentiments but it can be trying at times.
My neighbour asked me if I was going to return to work in the film industry as things were busy and there was work to be had. I said that I didn’t think I would be up to doing that job again in the future. I mentioned that 18 hours days were no longer appealing as well as the fact I have had so much surgery on my right side I couldn’t do the heavy duty lifting or driving required. I didn’t get into the fact that my reluctance to return to the film industry is actually more an unwillingness to devote 100% of my waking moments to dealing with insane costume designers, needy actors, miscellaneous crew and other so-called creative folks. Honestly after this whole cancer debacle I just want to do something I enjoy and that is fulfilling. Washing strangers’ underwear, hemming pants and sitting in some desolate parking lot watching the sun come up and freezing my ass off while the director yells, “CUT!” one…more…time…no longer inspires me. Call me greedy but I want more.
Anyway, my neighbour told me that I should go to the local Yuppie Uber Trendy Hellishly Expensive Health Food Grocery Store and have them set up a vitamin regimen for me to detoxify my body from all the cancer drugs. I just hmmm’ed at this because I talked to my doctor about this very same concept and she replied that I could do that if I wanted but that it would really only take time, a good diet and exercise to get my body back to where it once was. She said that we North Americans have some of the most expensive urine in the world with all the stuff we take under the guise of healthiness. So when people say I SHOULD go and drop hundreds of dollars that I don’t have on the advice of somebody who knows nothing about my health situation or history I don’t get mad. I just remind myself of this pertinent question. Who do I listen to? The hippy at the health food store or my medically trained oncologist who works at one of the most well respected cancer treatment centers in the world?
I know there are a lot of people out there that feel that the drug companies and the medical establishment are out to dupe us all and that curing cancer is simply a matter of cutting out sugar or juicing organic foods. I totally agree that when there is medical treatment for profit that maybe things get out of whack and priorities get skewed but in
Obviously there a balance to be struck between alternative health practices and western medicine. There ARE naturopathic things that can be helpful in treating cancer that compliment modern technology and I believe the cancer agency I am treated at offers a good mix of both. Along with my chemotherapy and radiation I was offered therapeutic touch, shiatsu massage, acupressure, acupuncture, yoga, fitness counseling, nutritional counseling, medical marijuana pills, individual counseling, and other types of supportive care. What I was strictly forbidden to do was to take herbal supplements or vitamins while under treatment as they could have interacted with my chemotherapy causing negative symptoms and even decreased the effectiveness of my treatment. So those helpful folks who are friends, relatives or just work at the vitamin store could, in their ignorance, cause you serious harm.
*start foreboding music*
I have an interesting story to tell that happened to me before I was diagnosed with cancer and started my blog that illustrates this issue. I’ll post about it on Monday.
And my point? Maybe I’ll figure one out by Monday as well.