Cancer is not easy to talk about. Some cancer patients decide to keep their cancer journey to themselves, discussing it with only those who must absolutely know. I have taken a different road. With my first utterance to my husband of the sentence I have cancer, I knew that this was something I needed to discuss. Hiding it was not going to help me. Quite the opposite. The more I talk about it, the better I feel – usually.
I say usually because I have discovered there are two sorts of conversations which I have about cancer, both potentially difficult. The first sort are the conversations with others. There is so much fear surrounding cancer that people often don’t know what to say – hey, there’s even been a television show called The C Word. How bad should they feel for you? Will they make you feel worse if they show their concern? Are jokes allowed? How dare jokes be allowed? I have found, though, that my friends and relatives do want to talk to me about this. They just don’t want to say the wrong thing. But really, what is the wrong thing? There is nothing they can tell me that I don’t already know. I know I have cancer, and actually, I can reassure them so they can overcome their fear for me. By their not feeling so fearful, I’m less fearful, as well. And yes – for me, jokes are great. Once I start telling my jokes, that gives them permission to dust off theirs. I fully believe that humor is one of life’s great healers. I know everyone has their own approach. Of course, I can only speak for myself. But so far I am finding that by talking about my cancer, I not only make myself feel better, but I make my friends and family feel better, and when they feel better, I again feel better, and so the circle goes. The conversations may be difficult. But they are very much worth having.
The second sort of conversation is even harder, though. Those are the ones I have with myself in my head. I often find myself in the midst of conversations with friends, doctors, hairdressers, physiotherapists, receptionists, secretaries, teachers, every sort of person I am likely to come across in my daily life. Most of these conversations will, in fact, never happen. Of the ones that do, very few of them need to be scripted in advance. It’s insane, counterproductive and, quite honestly, annoying. Those of us who meditate will be familiar with the concept of the monkey brain, the idea that our brains are jumping around all the time, from one idea to the next, whether the ideas make sense or not. I think of it as my brain working like a generator, with lots of electrical impulses happening all the time. Stray memories, images, ideas, sounds jump around inside it, monkey-like, just because they are there. The popping in and out are just a way to keep the electrical energy going. In other words, it’s not the content that’s important, it’s the energy that the content produces. So those fifteen discussions about what I should bring to the hospital? Not necessary. How about what exact words I should use on the phone when I call to make my pre-surgery haircut appointment? Important? Not so much. Sure – I do like to think that there are many important thoughts which I have from time to time when I do sit down to concentrate on some issue or other. But all these stray pretend conversations popping up while I’m doing the laundry or walking down the stairs? I don’t think so. The problem is they do create the same emotional impact on me as if I was really having those conversations. If the “talk” goes well, I’m happy. If not, I’m angry or frustrated or upset…over something that hasn’t really happened. I’m guessing that all of us have had these experiences. But when you add cancer into the mix, it just becomes harmful. This second sort of conversation is harder to deal with. But I’m working on it.