Jennifer Goodman Linn You Fearless

I Know You Mean Well But…

It's hard to believe that next week will be 1 Year since I started my second cycle of chemotherapy...March 2nd to be exact. I am so grateful that, with the exception of a few tough weeks along the way, I have been feeling really great. My doctors are reluctant to give me an end date and I have decided that I am not going to ask any more. I want to continue for as long as they thing is necessary and I don't want my constant questioning regarding the end date to imply that I am not comfortable with continuing the regimen. If it comes to a point that I feel like I need to stop then I will let my doctors know but I want to do all I can to get rid of this cancer so I am signed up for the long haul. As many of you know, I have been dabbling with writing a fun "cocktail-like" book about all of the STUPID, RIDICULOUS, NAIVE, ANNOYING things people say to you when you are dealing with cancer. The working title of the book is "I Know You Mean Well But..." because I know that no one ever means to say anything offensive. The book is a light-hearted humorous attempt to point out things that will be appreciated by cancer patients and gestures and comments that are anything but appreciated. I am purposely not using people's names in the book because I want everyone who reads it to see themselves in the stories. I realize that I probably did so many things that were so annoying and not helpful before I had to deal with the situation myself. So, this book is to teach everyone how to be helpful...and to have a good laugh! And to all of my friends who have told me "I'm not saying anything because I am scared I will be in the book", you'll be happy to know that I will also be highlighting good behavior. So, keep talking :) Over the past 3 years, I have accumulated about 50 stories of "bad behavior". They range from the glaringly obvious:
  • "You're not going to die, are you?"
  • "My friend's, brother's sister's aunt had cancer and she had X symptom so you should watch out"
  • "You had surgery during Christmas week and everything went OK? Wow, you're lucky because everyone knows none of the good surgeons work that week."
  • "I thought Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center only accepted patients that were going to die."
To the not so obvious:
  • "If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know" (I have a lot on my mind already, please don't give me the extra burden of finding something for you to do for me...just do something and I will appreciate it regardless)
  • "You should really do X...." (advice can range from eating oatmeal, to taking Vitamin C to getting accupuncture to taking green tea'd be amazed what people have recommended to me. You can make a suggestion but don't push it on me.)
  • "You're going to be OK, right?" (don't remind me of the odds and mysterious future of my illness...and if I'm not going to be OK, do I really want to talk about it?)
The reason why I am spending time talking about this now is because I had one of the most bizarre and inappropriate interactions at my gym yesterday. In the spirit of sharing what you should NEVER do, I thought I would share it with you all. I was getting changed in the gym and my bandana off so I was completely bald. A woman across from me suddenly yelled "SHIT!" very loudly so I looked up. She went on for AT LEAST 2 MINUTES telling me how stupid she was for going in the steam room because she ruined the beautiful hair-do that she had gotten done in the morning. She talked on and on about how hair is so important in making someone look pretty and she now had ruined her "look" for an event she had to attend in the afternoon. I stood there speechless not really knowing what to say. When she finished her rant, she said "thank you for letting me vent." I said, "No problem but it is a bit of an odd vent to share with someone who clearly has no hair". She looked at me and said, " I was so caught up in my own issues that I didn't even notice that you are bald. You poor thing, how do you do it?" At this point, I got very uncomfortable and tried to avoid her badgering questions of "Are you going to be OK? What type of cancer do you have?" She asked for my name so that she could pray for me. I told her that my name was Jennifer and I would appreciate if we could end the conversation and go about our business. She said "Oh, I know you're going to be OK...not like my friend who died of cancer last year." I told her that in her effort to help me, she is making things worse with every comment. I told her that the best thing she can do is to "zip it" and just tell me that I am in her thoughts and prayers. She completed the conversation by saying "Thank you so much for teaching me what is appropriate. I will definitely keep you in my thoughts. God Bless You MICHELLE!" The woman was such a narcissist that she couldn't even listen to me and learn from me...and hear my name! I guess I am grateful that I can laugh about such things...and to all the Michelle's out there...some crazy woman has you in her prayers!