I am irked. Oh, so irked.
Since the cancer diagnosis business with the abnormal cells and the tumourful cervix and the let's scrape this here and the let's remove that, I have been a little testy with regard to the pressure I feel is put upon cancer patients to be saintly. Today, I am especially testy about it, because not only do I get to be a cancer patient, but I also get to have a wicked sinus infection that has gone so far as to become a seeping wound inside my left nostril and a pinched nerve in my neck resulting from stress tension pushing my vertebrae out of place.
I was listening to the news on television while I was cuddling with Oskar on the toilet, because that is his cuddle place, gawd knows why, and the newsperson was going on and on about this young woman with some unspecified kind of cancer who actually continued to go to ball games and swim at the local pool. She was just the awesomest person in their whole town, yessiree, because she always smiled, and three different people were called upon to confirm her complete lack of complaint since the cancer took hold. Hallelujah, didn't everyone want to be just like her?
I shoved the cat off my lap just as he was in the midst of some exaggerated form of kitty ecstasy which involved shoving his paws between my thighs, and rushed into the living room to catch sight of this wondrous marvel of humanity. I decided that the broad grin she wore in each and every shot just might be a result of the partial paralysis she now endured after three brain surgeries, and that three brain surgeries could render anyone less prone to attacks of the weight of reality that would make you appear unhappy in the face of near imminent death.
I was peeved by the story, because no one ever spoke to her or her father, even though both were present, and I am less likely to believe in someone's perpetual sunniness if the only attestants are three people at a small-town ball game who do not even state what their relationship is to this beatified soul.
My issue, though, is much less with disreputable news story and much more with the idyllic portrayal of the cancer victim. There was an incredible list of wonderful attributes associated with the cancerified young woman, and she could very well be an excellent example of humanity, but as I listened to the news story, she was also an example of just about every other account I have come across both socially and in the media. We becancered souls are strong, we are giving, we are grateful, we are on a journey, we are experiencing the best thing that has ever happened to us, we amaze the non-becancered with our ability to keep on keepin' on.
I am tired of hearing people with cancer spoken about in the same glowing tones with which the freshly dead are spoken. Hello! Over here! See this? I am sooo not dead yet. People with cancer are not dead, nor are they necessarily terribly ill with it. You will not be cursed if you do not like someone with cancer. If you speak ill of a person with cancer, they will not zombify and stalk you in the night. People with cancer are just like the rest of living, except that we grow a lot more in places that you don't, which can sometimes bear complications both great and small.
I have been told by people that I am strong, but I will tell you where much of that appearance of strength comes from: there is nothing else I can do. If I hide in my apartment, I dwell mercilessly upon my mortality; if I cry, I don't stop; if I stay home from work to nurse a breakdown, I feel guilty and bored by my own eeyore-ish.
Being out in the world and continuing to live my life is the best defense mechanism I have, and I am sure that I am not the only one who employs this tactic. What else am I going to do with my time? Moon about the apartment and fret over the inevitable? I do that already in a thousand little moments throughout the day. Who wants to do only one thing ever all the time? That is boring, people. And lame. So, I am at work, I am out with friends, I go for walks, and the appearance of my bravery swells.
I guess that I should be looking at the bright side of this. When once not an eye was batted over my going out for coffee or volunteering my time, now many eyes bat, and the incidents are seen as signs of my inner fortitude. In the face of cancer, she went to a board meeting! Faith and begorrah!
But now I am just complaining, which means that I have gone off point. Here is the thing: when that newscast was featuring a story about that saintly young woman with cancer, a woman of such inner strength that she never once frowned or complained or became angry at the nastiness the disease can bring, I realized how suffocated I feel. A weird expectation has grown in our culture that cancer is The Worst Thing Ever That Can Ever Happen To A Person, and that anyone who comes down with the dreaded Worst Thing Ever is being awesome just by existing without bitching constantly. It is not as though I have known a great many people with cancer, but right now, I am being kept up to date about a few of them, and damned if each and every one of them has not been described as amazing and good and warm and thoughtful and strong.
It is a lot to live up to when you are in the midst of just trying to figure out what it means to have cancer in your life in the first place, let alone what it is going to mean when you are missing body parts afterward.
I mean, I am awesome; I am just not that awesome.