1. “Chemo” is not one drug, but about a billion, and you can be on chemo for years without repeating drugs.
What do you mean you haven’t tried the one derived from Japanese sea sponges yet?
2. You’ve had to explain how, while your mother does have breast cancer, it’s not in her breasts. It’s in her bones/lungs/liver/brain etc. but it is still, very much, breast cancer.
Sneaky little buggers.
3. You’ve offered to shave your head in solidarity
But your mom forbade you.
My sisters and I all offered, to which my mom replied “Why would I want to look at you guys bald all the time?”. So we opted for pink hair dye.
4. You can’t answer the question “How’s your mom doing?” without making it super awkward.
“She’s good. I mean, she has cancer. But she’s not sick.”
Ahh the joys of chronic disease!
5. People who think chemo is bad, haven’t seen radiation burn.
It’s pretty much what it would look like if you chest-bumped the sun,
6. Wearing pink does not trigger God to send an angel down to tag some one with breast cancer and instantly cure them.
Don’t get me wrong, donations fund cures. But for the love of God, know who and what you are actually donating to. You don’t have to buy something pink to prove it. The “pink” movement still sends part of the proceeds to the manufacturers, so why not just write a check for $30 to your local breast cancer support group instead of buying another koozie?
7. Speaking of charities, you know how amazing places like Gilda’s Club are, and don’t know what you’d do without them.
Seriously, if you are dealing with cancer in any way, shape, or form, get yourself here. It’s support for everyone touched by cancer, not just patients. Bonus: each club has an “It’s Always Something” room, where you can go to scream, swear, or cry in private when cancer is making your life shit.
8. You’ve had to do a post-surgery drug store run where you only buy two things: laxatives, and toilet paper.
After my mom’s first lumpectomy, they sent me to the drug store with specific instructions to ask the pharmacist which OTC laxative was gentle enough for post-surgery constipation. And, yes, I was holding a 12 pack of Charmin at the time.
9. You know the differences between CT scans, MRIs and PET scans, and know which ones require your mom to carry a card stating that she’s radioactive for 2 days.
Which is always fun to flash at airport security.
10. You MUST be the first in line for the flu shot each year.
And you’re not above pulling your cancer card for it. In fact, that’s what it’s for.
11. You’re cynical, but you also don’t want to scare people new to the game.
With relapses, metastases and “chronic” diagnoses, it’s easy to become cynical and bitter. The last thing you want to do is bum a “newbie” out. Every case is different, it’s just hard to find a way to say “My mom is dying, but that doesn’t mean that yours will!” without sounding, well, like that.
12. You’ve “accidentally” left your mom’s handicap placard up when borrowing the family car.
Not to worry, you have your whole speech memorized if anyone should question you.
13. You find it increasingly difficult to empathize when anyone in their 80s or above passes away.
You understand that it’s sad that they are gone, but they were healthy and lived their life. It’s hard to care when your love one dies at a young age after years of fighting through illness just to get there. You know thinking like that is awful, but right now, that’s just how it is.
14. There is nothing worse than someone saying some one “lost their battle with cancer.”
Really? How was this term ever considered to be alright? “Your loved one died because they were weak”? I can’t speak for everybody, but I know my mom fought like hell. And she won. Cancer needs a living being to exist. Dead people don’t get cancer. My mom ended the battle on her terms, and I’ll be damned if anyone dare suggest otherwise.
15. The helpless feeling when everything is said and done; and you realize how much of your life has suddenly ceased to exist.
I’m still working on this. Obviously it’s nothing I can express without sounding like I’m menstruating for the entire female population of the US. It’s hard, six years is a long time to live on the precipice of death. Not only is your mom gone, but so is the stress and the fear. When all those feelings get thrown in together, it can be really hard to process. You don’t live with the disease, you live in spite of it. And, it’s not easy, but I guess you keep doing it, every day. For the rest of your life.