After my oncologist told me I was an extremely healthy individual—with cancer, I asked, “How did I get this?” “How long have I had it?” He said, “We just don’t know. The best thing you can do is move on from here.” That was so helpful for me to hear. I knew it already, but to hear it from my oncologist gave me peace. There was no blame. Just the facts, ma’am (and with cancer, there’s lots of gray area.)
I frequently see the phrase, “Stupid cancer”on blogs, tweets and shirts. Cancer’s not stupid but some questions about it are. Some folks are sleep walking through life. They don’t set out to be rude or pry into your personal affairs, but—wow do some of them miss the mark! If someone asks you “How’d you get this?” or in metaphysical circles, “What did you do to create this?” you could always answer, “By asking too many questions.” I bet it’ll stop further questions!
I like to educate people, but there are times I’m tired, fed up—and yes, sometimes when I’m not patient or willing enough to be non-judgmental about the person asking the question. Some ask questions out of curiosity. From strangers or gossips, I have low tolerance for that. Some genuinely want to learn. I’m more than willing to open up for them.
Hold your head high. If you want a break from questions about cancer, say so. Let your friends and family know cancer doesn’t define who you are, and that you need a break from it. Offer a new topic of conversation. You don’t have to blast people, but set your boundaries in how much talk-time and emotion you give to cancer when you’re not at your doctor appointment.
If strangers are asking you questions, think of it as being a movie star. I’m sure stars get it all the time. “How’d you become famous?” “How much money do you make?” If you can give an answer, I think that’s best. THAT is cancer awareness moving into cancer education. Q: “How’d you get cancer?” A: “Science still doesn’t completely know how people get cancer.” “I have no idea.” A bit more flippant, “We all take turns at something.”
I had people ask about my finances. Not open-ended, “If you need financial help…” “Are you financially okay?” The questions were specific for information, and didn’t come from my closest friends, but from casual acquaintances. “How are you paying your bills?” is just one of the many you may be asked. No matter who it is, you have every right to not answer. You can ask them why they need to know. I promise they’ll say, “I’m concerned.” That would bring another question to my mind: How does their knowing the answer help me? I learned this strategy after the third person asked me. I said, “Are you offering to pay my rent?” It’s no one’s business unless they’re offering to help you.