December 29th, 2009
This seems like a strange thing to write about, but I find people are on uncertain footing when they interact with me. In all fairness, my ability to socialize varies, depending on where I am in my chemo cycle and how many pills I’ve needed to pop that day. I’ve had enough unnecessarily confusing interactions to warrant some guidelines for interacting with the ChemoMe.
1. My short-term memory stinks. My ability to focus shifts. If you are talking to me and it seems like I am not following, you are probably right. If the message you have for me is important, I may do better with the three-sentence version of your news. Or write it down. Or wait.
2. While I can only absorb succinct communications, I can seldom produce them. I am more loquacious than usual and even have a bad filter about what may or may not be wise to share in a given situation or moment. This is sad to me, because discretion was one of my hard-earned adult life skills, and I feel it slipping away. I also often
forget why I started to say something, not knowing what my original point was.
3. My nausea*, which at its best is just lurking just beneath a druggy veil, threatens to come out when interactions become heated or tense or when they require complex decision making. Don’t take it personally
if I walk out of the room when I am simply a witness to these kinds of conversations. Leaving is part of my nausea control.
4. As is suggested by #3, my normal sensitivity is heightened. While I don’t feel nauseous from your pity or guilt, I prefer not to be on the receiving end of either. Pity, in particular, insults my pride. I know that this is an awful situation, but I also know I have unbelievable support and good treatment available. I don’t mind commiserating with you and talking about how much this disease sucks, but hold the pity, please.
And guilt … well, I understand it. You’ve been meaning to call or write but haven’t known what to say. I have been there. Just know I take all awkward messages, like, “I don’t know what to say, but I am sending love.” “Just thinking about you.” Whatever. That’s great. I love getting these.
But I also know that you really are busy. Even in my foggiest moments, I am aware that there is a certain life clock that has stopped for me, certain timetables I have departed from. I exist in cancer time. I get to go lie down when I’m tired. I have people picking up the pieces for me in all sorts of ways as I stumble along through this treatment. You still need to keep it together and manage your busy life.
Conversationally, a lot of guilt comes out in people downplaying their troubles. I have no problem that my cancer puts your flat tire in perspective in the scheme of things, but if I am your friend, you can still bitch to me about how long it took the AAA guy to get there while you waited in the rain.
5. I seek amnesty from the normal etiquette of returning phone calls, texts, and emails. Please don’t take my lack of response as loaded with any kind of meaning. There is a pretty good chance that I actually think I answered you. (Confession: I have this mental email problem in a much milder way even when I am well.) I love getting your notes. I can’t say it enough. Please don’t think I am flaky if I don’t respond.
6. I can’t hug you or shake hands or be around you when you cough. I try to avoid crowded rooms or, if I must be in one, to sit where I think I might be in not-as-close proximity to somebody’s hacking. My immunity is compromised. This is a threat I take seriously, since I’m a grumpy sick person when I just have a cold. I really don’t want to have cancer and a cold. Also, if I ever go in for a chemo infusion and have a fever, they will delay my treatment. One of the ways I’ve always tried to exert control over the chaos of life is by scheduling things and making timelines. So, damn it, my last chemo better be on February 25. My friends are all lined up. I don’t want it to go into March. It may not make sense to you, but that’s really important to me.
7. My strong orientation to the calendar has historically put me in the role of the family scheduler. I have had to hand over those reins to my husband, because I am not constant enough to catch all the events in my family’s life. This is especially hard for the girls’ social lives, because for some reason, playdate scheduling tends to be a mom-to-mom interaction. I have already screwed up a couple of times by double scheduling us because I get some great idea for something and don’t realize that another plan is in place. Even if I was told. (See #1.)
8. I get physically tired. It must be confusing because I look like me (minus the hair) and, aside from the chemo, I am otherwise strong. I also don’t tend to kvetch. But I wear out, sometimes sooner than my mind thinks I should. If I can’t keep up or need your help, don’t be surprised
* “Nausea” is actually the wrong word. But it’s the closest thing I have experienced to this particular brand of malaise. Nausea, in my experience, usually starts with a sour taste in the mouth and a lurching belly. Whatever this is starts with a metallic taste in the mouth and a prickling sensation in the mouth, throat, and gut.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 at 2:06 am and is filed under Humor, Treatment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.