I don’t want to be known for the rest of my life as “The Cancer Survivor.” I don’t even want to be known by that label for the rest of the year. So this is my final post– more or less– on the topic. It’s not that I’m going to ignore cancer. It’s just that it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled programming in this space.
Cancer can make you that person on social media. You know that person:
“The One with Four Thousand Pet Pictures”
“The One with ALL the Opinions about Obama/Trump/Vaccines/Guns”
“The One Who Posts Photo Memes” (so many photo memes)
“The One Who Should be Flogged with a Selfie Stick”
Admittedly, since I was diagnosed in May, my essays have been narrowly focused on reacting to that. But moving on, I don’t want to be “The One Who Only Posts About Cancer (but Didn’t He Used to Have a Sense of Humor)?”
For someone who didn’t immediately disclose his diagnosis on line, I guess I’ve come full circle wanting to give my timelines a break from cancer. For someone who has been paid to advise people to tweet and share and like and network, I wasn’t sure this felt right back in May. So I asked a friend, whose wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, how they decided to update everyone via social media.
I can boil down his advice as follows: People are going to find out anyway, so they may as well hear it from you. And once you decide to share, you owe it to your friends to update them on your progress. In the absence of information, they’ll assume things are getting worse. And vague updates are a really quick way to anger, worry, and annoy your “followers” even when you don’t have cancer.
So, I wrote. I shared the stories about the diagnosis, the weird hospital experiences, the humiliation and, yes, the very dark humor there is to be found in cancer treatment. My friends, supportive blog readers, and my growing circle of cancer survivor allies kept responding positively, so I kept writing. It was the only aspect of The Cancer I had any control over.
This past month, I’ve been raising money through a very silly cancer fundraiser called The Movember Foundation. I’ve grown a mustache, and friends have donated money—many have ignored their razors in hairy solidarity, too. The generosity has been remarkable: My friends have donated $3,200 to charities that concern themselves with testicular and prostate cancer, as well as other men’s health issues. I am honored, humbled, and grateful.
I’m cured now. “Movember” ends tomorrow. It’s time to get back to life without chemo and end the run of cancer-centric posting. I need to write about the new experiences, humiliations, and dark humor that 2016 will bring. I need to find a job. I need to post stupid jokes, mock Britt’s gardening obsession, poke fun at Debby’s height and Jason’s bald head (now that my hair’s back) and, possibly, be a little nicer too.
I want to be known as a lot of things: a friend, a dad, a colleague, a wiseass, a writer, an off-key singer, and a Sox fan. I’d like people to know I’m one of the world’s most average ukulele players. I want to be known as trustworthy, sincere but a little too sarcastic, open to new ideas and yet still set in my ways. I even like being known as “The One Hit by the Bat at Fenway.”
As for now, I’m finished being “The One Who Had Cancer.”
What wonderful advice you got from your friends about updating people on how you are doing. I didn’t realize that as a friend of a person with cancer, you DO (even if just subconsciously) fear the worst when you don’t hear anything. That was great info for you to pass along- thank you. Good luck with the next part of your writing journey and journey journey. Be gentle with yourself if you still feel like you’re wearing the “I survived cancer” sign around your neck a while longer. It might be a slower shedding than the decision your intellectual side has already made. I’m still shedding my “dead baby mama” sign. It shifts and shows up in different colors, sometimes brightly, sometimes faded, sometimes angry, sometimes lovingly- but for me at least, it’s on my list and can never be taken off. Or as my therapist says, “it’s part of my tapestry” (I remember rolling my eyes when she first said that). I love that you are choosing to focus on other aspects of yourself right now. Brilliant. And if we’re allowed to vote, I’d like you to start with the mocking of Britt’s gardening obsession. And…. GO!
Thank you, Katie. He he’s someone I often turn to for advice about media. He seemed a logical choice not just as a smart media guy, but as a friend. I like that “part of your tapestry” concept. To think that one can truly eliminate this as part of one’s experience is denial. Instead, it’s just not how we need to define ourselves. As for Britt, she’s probably still out there planting annuals or semi-annuals or multi-dimensional-perrenials or whatever. I will, reluctantly, admit it is a great garden. I kill my plants or, more specifically, they seem to kill themselves upon my taking ownership.
I’d do anything for a little passion around planting. So much to gain from it- teaching the kids an important skill, a Zen moment of your own, contributing to the world or your home’s beauty. But sadly, I too am a killer of the plants. So sad. But I’d like to change that!
True story: When I moved into my apartment, the only thing the previous tenant left behind was a plant. The tenant before him had, too, left the plant for him. It was tradition. I was told all I had to do was water it and leave it for the next tenant. The next tenant will be getting the lovely pot it came in.
I cannot keep a single indoor plant alive. I am a terrible pet plant parent. But outside? That’s easy. And delightful. Plus I’m really great at it.
I would have eye-rolled at “tapestry” too. But now, not so much. I wear cancer every day. But now it’s more of a lapel pin than a hideous poncho.
Love both of you. Hugely.
you are so gorgeous little miss britt. perfectly said. now get over here and fix my garden!!!!
Beautiful post Steve. You will always be the “one I respect and admire.” Always.
And you’re the “One Who Has Stuck By Me Since NECN (even when I gave you good cause to be pissed at me.)” And I thank you.
Really pleased to hear about the progress. And the positive attitude. Oh yes, and the snark. Never lose the snark.
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