Now as a primary school teacher I feel like I should be making this next post into a little cut and sick matching activity for the less able in the class… Can you match the reaction to my news with the correct person in my life? But I’ll try not to be too much of a teacher dick and just get on with my story!
So when you’re told it IS cancer you get to go to ‘The room with the leather sofas and artwork and tissue boxes.’ I imagine it would be normal to sob a bit and hug your loved one and ask ‘Why me?’ I do not think I’m very normal… apart from worry instantly about losing my hair I quickly moved on to- there are so many people waiting to hear my news/I’ve got a lot of phone calls to make/I don’t want to upset my mum/can I put this as my facebook status?
I first phoned my mum- although she needed to know, I didn’t want to tell her…it would upset her. I didn’t want to be the one who made her sad. So I summoned my most bright and breezy voice and ‘Mum, I’m fine, it is cancer but I’m fine so you’re not to be upset. OK?’ It didn’t work she was obviously devastated. I would just have to plough on with my positivity until she realised that I was in actual fact fine! (Maybe in need of an early night but fine!) When I saw mum the next day, still trying to convince her that I would be ‘fine’ she seemed a little cross with me and said ‘It IS serious Erin!’ Obviously I knew this but was taking the road of positivity and thought she might like to join me- apparently it’s the best way to face these things and as quite the optimist it thought it the best route for me!
People’s reactions are funny. There is no non-serious way to say ‘Actually I have cancer.’ I’ve tried: upbeat and breezy. I’ve tried: drop it into conversation and hope it’s registered but not blown up into ‘something serious’. I’ve tried: say it really quickly! But still the news stuns listeners. It just such a serious sentence! It’s a bit like you need them to know without actually having to tell them- somehow they find out by osmosis maybe? They know, they understand, they behave accordingly. (Recently at a children’s birthday party another mum spent a good hour urging me to have another baby ‘There’s no better time to try for number three you know… have them close together, it’s the best way. At what point should I have mentioned to this almost perfect stranger that I was booked in for a mastectomy on Monday?) I’ve never been one for keeping things private- I’m happy to share even my most embarrassing stories with the world but this cancer news is an awkward one- when do you divulge the information? I don’t want to put other mothers off their mums and toddlers business but equally I do not want to get drawn into long conversations about more babies, moving house or my next career step!
My youngest sister’s reaction made me smile- after the initial shock had worn off and she was on board the positivity train with me she said ‘At least it makes you a more interesting person, having cancer I mean… It gives you something to talk about.’ Having something to talk about has never been a problem for me in the past- just try shutting me up most of the time! So thank you very much cancer but if that’s why you’ve chosen me you can jolly along to someone who has less to say… me, I’m more of the verbal diarrhoea type anyway.
My closest friends seemed to take the news very well- they text back encouraging positive messages as soon as they received their blanket text explaining my news (much nicer when the blanket text explains your new baby’s sex, weight, name and time of delivery but hey they’ve had their fair share of those!) I was pleased that rather than get all doom and gloom on me that they were confident this was something I could in fact beat! Or so I thought! It later transpired that on hearing my news they all met together and sobbed… I phoned one of them and realised they were together having a ‘Cancer Conference’ without me! How RUDE! I wanted to go round and join them but at the same time I felt I should stay with my husband who was also understandably shocked. (Plus as usual I was in my pyjamas by 7.30pm.)
The rest of the people you tell fall into one of two categories…
One: so shocked and dismayed that you have to convince them it's really not that bad.
And Two: The blasé folk who know a million people who have survived and are here to tell the tale! (To them I want to yell ‘It IS cancer you know!’ and shake them a little bit.)
So there is no right reaction. React however you like but if you’re coming along for the ride you better hop on the positivity train and be prepared to laugh along the way because we’re not taking any mopers!