Tuesday, March 25, 2008

OT-The Cancer Card

I rarely do this, venture off into non-Manilow subjects but this has been bothering me so much for the last few days I thought I would write about it.

The History: I am a cancer survivor (although I'm not sure there is such a thing) for over 10 years. I had my first incident of it when I was 42-ten years before my mother who died from the disease. When I got it, I was taking care of my 92 year old great aunt with Alzheimers who lived with me, my 82 year old father who also lived with me, and my teenage children. I continued doing this for 2 years of surgery and treatments (radiation and chemotherapy) with no help or relief-financially or physically. I have my own business. When I don't work, I don't get paid. I had tons of extended family, but it was "well-known" in family circles that I was strong enough to handle anything (my bad I guess). I received no phone calls or follow up "how are you doings" while I was in treatment.

The Drama: My sister-in-law who is about 8 years younger than me found out about a year ago that she had cancer. You would have thought the world as we knew it was coming to an end. Her children were grown, she worked at a hospital and had all the best medical care and referrals, and she had full time paid medical leave for all her surgeries and treatments. When she began losing her hair, the entire family shaved theirs in solidarity, along with her son's college baseball team. My husband's uncle sent them money every month to subsidize her being off work. She received a phone call every week from me and from all the other family members. Poor Suzie. She has cancer. Isn't it awful.

The straw that broke the camel's back: This weekend we met her and her husband in San Antonio for a short visit. As I saw her walking across the street to meet us, there it was. The shirt that did it all for me: CANCER SUCKS. I almost lost it. She's never going to let the cancer card go. She had the best treatment. They consider her to be cancer-free and give her very positive hope that they were able to remove all signs of the disease. And yet, she's wearing that shirt like a badge of honor.

Here's my question: At what point do you stop playing the cancer card? With her, it's the first words out of her mouth (or in this case on her shirt). When she talks about it, she acts like I don't have a clue what she went through. Excuse me but I do. Not only did I go through what she went through, I did it alone. No mother there to hold my hand. No spouse there to go with me to treatments (he's a wimp). No kids there to show solidarity because they were too young and scared themselves. No medical community to support me because I live in the most backward city in Texas. No financial support from my job or relatives.

Of course, as my wise sage of a Mother used to tell me: Nobody ever said that life was fair. Trust me, I've certainly learned that truth over the last few weeks.

Texas Fan


Steph said...

Maybe it's some type of underlying insecurities that she has. You had to do it on your own, and maybe she just hasn't come to grips with it yet. There are many instances in life that we are tested, and some handle it well, and some don't.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately there are lots of people in this world who are just like your siste inlaw, that harp on about their illnesses, even though they are "cured", to me I see it as attention seeking, and the "poor me" factor. They use it to keep them in the spotlight, sad really. I say move on with your life, yes, you had something really bad, but you survived, now make the most of life. I think it really sucks you had no support and that probably gets to me more to think you had nobody you could vent your feelings to, esp whist you were going through your treatment, cause that is when you do need people who are empathetic, regardless if you are strong or not. We all need somebody we can vent to, when things turn bad in our lives. Somebody just to listen to our fears, not judge or be insincerely sympathetic, by making out they know how you feel.
You are a survior, and moving on with your life, and that is a positive thing, but hey you know where I am if you ever do need to vent, I may not know what it is like to go through what you have and would never presume to but I am a good listener and sometimes that is all we all need in life, somebody to actually listen.

Your Aussie Friend

texas_fanilow said...

Thanks Kim and Steph for your comments and support. I've realized that everybody deals with cancer differently. There is no right or wrong response. And honestly, you never really move past it. It's always in the back of your mind. So thanks to a very wise friend (YBA) who opened my eyes to some things I hadn't thought about, I can see that my sister-in-law is just trying to cope in her own way, in her own time. And I have to begin to let people know what I need when I need it. Which for me, is very difficult. And perhaps it is time to do just that.

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