Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's not just the Outsiders

Sorry I haven't been writing lately, but things are insanely busy as usual.

Anyhoo, I know that this blog has been a little (okay a lot) negative about how outsiders who don't necessarily understand how cancer patients feel, are sometimes tactless when it comes to making comments and in some of their actions.

I tried not to come down too hard, but there are some people who just beg to be mentioned for their idiocy and lack of common sense.

For example, I have a recently married friend who was just diagnosed with a tumor. It was a scary time for all who know her because it was a long waiting period to hear whether the tumor was cancerous and if she'd need chemo or not.

It was also very sad because only a few months earlier she had been a joyful kallah at her wedding and now her new life was disrupted for something so sinister. There were rumors spreading that her husband was going to leave her and all sorts of horrible things that of course weren't true and were just hurtful to my friend and her family and of course, her new family.

She came home from her surgery erev Shabbos and was feeling so ill, that her mother in law didn't let her go home, and took her in for the weekend. (She still has a bunch of little siblings at her parents house so going there wasn't ideal for resting up.)

The tumor was officially a secret until it was discovered to be benign and that she would not need chemo, but that Shabbos no one really knew what was going on except for her close friends and family. Alas, people talk, and of course, rumors spread, no matter how hard you try to keep it under wraps.

Early Shabbos morning, while my friend was still asleep, one of her friends knocked on her mother in law's door to ask how my friend was doing. She wasn't a particularly close friend and she wasn't someone my friend would have liked sharing intimate details of her life with. She asked the mother in law if there was anything she could do and the mother in law declined. The friend hung around, making no move to leave until she finally asked, "So, she had a miscarriage, right? Everyone is talking about how she was rushed into the hospital because she lost a baby."

You can imagine my friend's reaction when she heard the kind of things being discussed about her and that there were people out there who didn't even think that it was not appropriate to knock on the patients door to ask personal questions.

I should really add that to my list of DON'Ts - no personal questions!

Okay to stop bashing the ones out there and focus on the wrongs of people that are part of "My" crowd. ;)

I was stopped randomly by someone who heard from someone else who read my blog that I had been sick. This woman had a son who had just been declared in remission and all she wanted to do was tell me about every single doctor's visit her son had ever had. She was telling me things that I'm sure her eighteen year old son would die if he knew she told me about, and she was keeping me while I was on the way to an important appointment.

I know she needed to talk to someone who understood, and I did understand, but I didn't know why it had to be outside in the rain when it was freezing and I was rushing somewhere without a coat.

I have no idea why she thought that I needed to hear everything about her son's body and why she felt so much better after asking me some really personal questions too.

She asked my opinion on all her son's chemo and his radiation and if I knew his doctor and if I knew the doctor why didn't I go there too. I had defend my choices to her and then assure her that her choices were right too. Mind you this is already AFTER her son was declared in remission this summer.

I am glad to be so open about my illness and more than happy to help anyone, but there's a limit to how much of my privacy I'm willing to give up.

Some cancer people feel like this is something they want to overcome and forget and then there are others who need to go through all the weeny details over and over again.

Personally, I am very open about my illness, and its hard for me to forget because it was at a very important time in my life- it marked the split from being a teen in school to getting married. I had no time to readjust to real life again, it was from one episode to another.

But as open as I am, I have another life too. Now that I have been busy redoing my blog so that I can publish it as a real live book, I've been finding it so hard to relive all those experiences. I don't regret that I wrote them down, but its so hard to go through them even on my own, and when I am stopped by strangers who demand my life story, I have a very hard time coping.

I want to be able to help everybody, but I think people need to help themselves first by deeply considering other people and their feelings. I don't say this as a negative, I say this because I think everyone needs to work on this. Cancer related or not. Being in touch with the feelings of others is something seriously lacking in this day and age where people are doing things mostly to get ahead.

I would even say that 80% of the girls who volunteer for Chai Lifeline only do it to get into Camp Simcha. I know this because I get calls from people I don't even know asking me if I can write them a recommendation to be accepted. They beg me to tell Chai Lifeline how amazing they were to me when I was sick and yadda yadda. Sad thing is that I'm not the only cancer patient getting these "do me this huge favor" calls.

I just gave a report card comment to a girl that I wanted her to be more aware of the feelings of the girls around her. It wasn't meant as a bad comment at all. I just wanted her to be aware that some of the things she was doing were not going over well with her classmates.

Well her parents came to PTA this morning LIVID. They claimed I hated their daughter and totally washed the floor with me.

To be honest. I do hate their kid now that I met the parents. I understand where her attitude comes from and I know that whatever I will say won't make any difference because her parents think I'm a liar and that I am an incompetent teacher.

I laughed in their faces (yeah, I guess that does make me incompetent) but I was so hurt inside. Not for me. I know not to take those people personally. I hurt for all those people just like me out there who are faced with insensitive talk and gestures just because others are too stuck up to listen for what we are asking.

It doesn't hurt to think of others feelings once in a while. It doesn't take much to realize where common sense is needed, and it doesn't take that much to take a little bit of advice sometimes, even if it is a little bitter.

I look at this girl and her parents and think that one day there might be a cancer patient who is going to cry because of a comment my student might make. All because she refuses to think that she can do any wrong.

We all do wrong. I'm still working on that list of dos and dont's - really! its just taking forever because things like this keep happening.

I think that before we even do a cancer list- we should do a checklist- a personal one. We all need to think, "Who might I be hurting when I say or do this or that?" I need to think before writing a comment on a student's record card that might be interpreted wrongly, and parents need to think about how to talk to a teacher who works hard to help their child, and others need to think of how their well meaning actions might be taken the wrong way by someone like a patient, or to be honest; anyone else.


Bas~Melech said...

I second what you said about deeply considering other people. It's a whole different concept than all those lists of don'ts that make you walk on eggshells. Because there is no recipe; sensitivity is a way of life.

I hate to admit, I used to be quite a self-centered one. I've been working on this for some time now and I've discovered that it is THE key.

I feel almost as much pity for the student as for the people she'll insult. They will probably learn to understand, while she may find herself seriously lacking certain skills later in life.

(on a completely unrelated note, I think it's so funny when I see all these girls volunteering because they want to get into camp simcha. I had the opposite problem -- I worked in camp, and therefore wanted so badly to stay involved during the year, but there are never any openings! It's OK, I realize that the high school kids have much more time and energy to devote... but it's ironic!)

Anonymous said...

You do not need to think more before writing comments on your report cards, thats what they are there for. My daughter recently received a nice report card with one hegative comment. We sat down and spoke to her about this issue and thanked the teacher for bringing it to our attention. The parents you met with are idiots.

Anonymous said...

Thank you JAP for blogging about this sensitivity again. Another thing though, and this is seemingly so fundamental, yet somehow so lacking. I've commented before on this blog, introducing myself as an 18 year old 2x cancer survivor. Well, recently I got engaged. My chosson is a cancer survivor as well, but we view cancer as the bashert medium that pulled us together, and not as the reason or cause of our engagement. Neither of us said OK because we heard the other one was also sick, if anything that turned us off. We're not marrying eachother for our relative experiences, but rather for the consequent growth from our experiences, with which only one survivor can relate to another. Anyways, back on topic - this engagement of ours shocked many. I've gotten questioning looks, like asking, what's wrong with him? By my vort, I heard one girl tell her friend, he looks so normal!Girls also assume that he must've been sick if he's marrying me and they ask me straight out, blunt questions like how long ago was he sick? what type of cancer? COME ON!!!! As I always said when I was sick, "Grow up or I'll Throw Up!" I'm ranting here, sorry everyone, but it is so lacking mentchlichkeit ot ask these questions! Are these girls going to watch my belly after I get married to see if I'll get pregnant after both of us were sick? I'm disgusted.

J.A.P. said...

Anonmyous cancer survivor:

I actually said things about cancer marring cancer in that post called "So we both had Cacner, lets get married" (I think thats what it was called- it was in march 03)

Yes, we will all be watching your belly. Make sure never to catch a cold in your shana reshona or we will assume you are having morning sickness for your triplets.

Anonymous said...

Also don't say you like pickles. I've been married for 6 months, and if I had a baby for everytime someone asked me if I was pregnant (why are people soo rude??) I would have my own army by now

Another Surviver said...

Anonymous: Actually in this community any girl that gets married automatically has everybody watching her stomach. But for cancer survivors such as ourselves we also have this feeling that everybody is wondering if we can have kids even though we were sick. As annoying as it is there's not much we can do about it.

Proud said...

After going through infertility, I can totally relate to your last comment. I am always PETRIFIED to be sick. I bH have two kids and had really hard pregnancies, so for sure if I am sick or tired, I MUST be pregnant. If I don't put on makeup, I look washed out and then people start whispering! It's insane! I always feel like my shirt must be prettier around my stomach because that is what attracts people's attention first...

Anonymous said...

sorry, Survivors, I understand your paranoia about ppl looking at your tummies soon after you marry, but I can assure you it's something that happens to EVERY frum girl in the shana rishona... ok, how about this for obnoxious?... when it became obvious that my daughter was expecting, a women said to me, "Oh, I figured that out MONTHS ago when I noticed her chest was getting larger!" Can you believe that one?!

Gila said...

Totally get it about the well-meaning but still obnoxious comments and attitudes....