You Got This🤜🏻🤛🏻🤮

“You got this!” For so many reasons those three little words trip my gag reflex. Even more nauseating than when I meet someone for the first time, and after a rousing conversation, my bones crackle like Rice Krispies bathing in cold milk from the the high torque of the predictable tearful hug of a virtual stranger. Those three words bring up memories of feeling a love connection with my WC after an all margarita Tex-Mex late dinner. Even worse, looking upwards from my new physical form of a puddle consisting of liquified bones as this new acquaintance’s admission of, “I love you,” in an attempt to appear spiritually enlightened. One may hear an audible “wretch” from my throat as I search my jeans pockets for a wad of lint (or shrapnel) as a show of my displeasure.

The winning candidate with votes for most nausea inducing commentary: “you got this,” when asked about my cancer status/ diagnosis/ most recent test plucked from the tree full of overripe, saccharine fruit bending the tree of life to near demise. It’s always followed by the person’s right fist held a little higher than handshake level looking to connect in a punch, like a high five only better I guess.

I suppose if one defines “this” as cancer, yes I do “got this.” But it’s in that exchange people attempt to convey their sappy solidarity, feeling obliged to elucidate me on their understanding that above all people in the unfortunate overlapping slice of the Venn diagram of cancer severity. They wish to tell me that I have got the treatment wrapped up like a package and ready to ship off to, say, Antarctica. Vomit freezes in sub zero temperatures, too.

In other words, when a person relates some meaningless idiomatic newly coined urban banality to confirm they can feel my inner strength like the cold nose of a dog. Yet in coping with metastatic cancer, two and only two things become apparent to me within those three little words:

a. They’re not going to offer any real help, and

b. They’ve no understanding of metastatic disease.

But wait! What does our contest winner beat out for it’s illustrious award? For your enjoyment – all of you cancer survivors, cancer saviors, or masochistically interested parties – here I present a list of similar personality driven context bereft comments I’ve heard since my diagnosis over the last three years and three months:

  1. You’re strong. (Maybe a subtle hint regarding the lack of aluminum in my deodorant?)

  2. You’ll beat this. (Watch as I Michael Jackson moon walking away)

  3. Play a short game of MadLibs: My (proper noun or the name of friend or relative or acquaintance) died (number) of years ago from (disease not cancer).

  4. If anyone can handle this you can. (With the right tools anyone can change a flat)

  5. The narcissist’s dilemma: I don’t have time for this and I don’t have time for your hospital visit. You know my fiends husband had to sell his house and my friend died five years ago from cancer. (actual text message to me from my stepsons’ mother after which I blocked her number in my iPhone and haven’t unblocked it since).

  6. You look too good to have cancer. (Was it my recent Vogue cover?)

  7. Don’t worry there’s new treatments coming out every day. (So many oncology experts!)

  8. What do you need? (By need you mean anything you won’t provide?)

  9. I’m here for you. (In the moment.)

  10. You’re a strong woman, you can handle anything. (Including keeping my dinner down)

  11. You still have your hair – are you sure it’s chemo? (My eyebrows consist of are hair, don’t they?)

  12. Can you pull the “cancer card” to get me (a discount, better seat, place in line)? (Actually you can have it as my gift! How do I loan out my cancer card and its initialing disease permanently?)

  13. Do you have any pot? (?)

  14. Try to be on time, please. (Try to not get caught masturbating when I tell you to fuck off.)

  15. It must be so hard dealing with your husbands depression on top of cancer? (And now your comments depressed me, too.)

  16. I’m praying for you (but don’t really pray.)

  17. I prayed for you and look what good news you got! (they do pray but take credit for a good scan report or blood test)

  18. It must be so hard on your husband, poor thing! (Yes I’m very poor -can you buy this round?)

  19. So you’re in remission? (Remission? That’s for lightweights!)

  20. Aren’t you finished with chemo? (Did you finish your GED?)

  21. I’ll call you soon. (Wha? Late for dinner maybe.)

  22. Call me we’ll do coffee. (I don’t do beverages I do my husband. Sometimes.)

  23. Let’s go out for drinks. (Have you no clue what alcohol does to promote cancer like a bar bouncer?)

  24. Try these pills they worked for (my boss’ sister’s great nephew’s gerbil.)

  25. Your cat is so sweet, he would die without you. (Was actually said to me a few weeks ago.)

  26. Do you use edibles? I got a guy… (he’s no longer a dealer honey.)

  27. Can you take me to your dispensary? (My refrigerators ice dispenser, maybe.)

  28. Why didn’t you catch it before stage IV? ( see comment 14)

28 b. What’s dense tissue? (I want to reply with a smarmy smart ass answer but I’m too nice to say out loud what’s swirling in my mind…)

  1. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Ibid 14)

#28 doesn’t apply. My job application didn’t make the cut for any of the roles I cannot take due to a time management problem including insomnia and doctors appointments and constipation. Also, chemo brain won’t allow me to access my short term memory at times when I need it most. So no there’s not a rush to hire me and I don’t see anyone from my network tossing any contract consulting work at me. I can’t do it if I wanted to anyway since I’d lose my benefits and go further into severe debt. And stress isn’t my friend. My cancer loves eating cortisol though.

I forget what my point was but in conclusion, I know people aren’t naturally hurtful. However, they can be naturally ignorant. If they understood the life sucking costs of my treatments, including the loss of relationships with friends and family, they’d know I don’t “got” anything at all – except a terminal case of metastatic cancer.

#fuckcancer on the precipice of my 53rd birthday in 10 days. I am glad to be alive – and I’m glad you’re reading my little blog, even this vent session. Please comment with your very favorite stupid stuff people have said to you. It cracks me up and the solidarity is therapeutic!

💜

Ilene

Female. East coast transplant living in the Bay Area of California. Living with Stage IV breast cancer. Married to the coolest guy in the universe who occasionally suffers from serious depression. Love my stepsons, although I never thought I'd have that thankless job - ever! And my best friend Simon is also my cat. How I have survived with stage IV: treatments including chemo and surgery; palliative oncology; tenacity; a dark sense of humor; support groups; and my newly reinvented career as a vintage and antiques maven. Some days I miss the old me who led a well respected and well paid life as a business strategist in high tech. So much for that. I blog to simply share my experiences and my poetic approach with others who have cancer of any kind or with their care givers and those who love them. If one person at the very least finds a little commonality or a friend out in the ether tor a smile, a common nod about this experience, or even a link to assistance, then I have accomplished a small but extraordinarily meaningful goal. Go team.

10 thoughts on “You Got This🤜🏻🤛🏻🤮

    1. Thank you. All birthdays are a big deal since my diagnosis. I appreciate the well wishes just that much more, too.

  1. Hi and thanks Ilene. You made my day. My favorite is when one normally very jovial man sees me in the local Co-op store, approaches and then with hands together and downcast eyes and lowered softened voice and saddeat looking facial expression asks…”so, how are you doing”?” Yup! Your #14 comment applies in this case for sure. Cheers. Basil.

    1. Love it. I’ve got one of those too. At my grocery store. The other is one who avoids me completely. They go on a restroom break when they see me coming. Recently I found out why -My port makes them feel weird. Hmmm. Me too!

  2. I’m tired of hearing I’ll pray for you which really means- I’ve got nothing for you so I’ll pray because it makes ME feel better.

    #fuckcancer INDEED!!!

  3. Twice because of my loss of hair, wait staff have come around the corner and asked “you two gentlemen like a refill.” And then apologize profusely when they see my face.
    Oh you’ll get a free boob job….you’ll have perky boobs now….
    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….
    You seem to be going through this really well ( I had zero choice, well die or treatment…)
    You look good bald, it must be easy!

    1. I’m sure you have a very nice shaped head said a a chemo nurse. My husband said the same thing. I didn’t lose all my hair but a third and it won’t grow much at al, so I think I’m going to have a crew cut just to mess with him and dye it platinum – it already is but bright platinum – and freak him out! I’d look like a tall Susan Powter.

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