Thursday, August 06, 2015

Tips for Jenna, my pal with the CANSUH

If you've read me for any length of time, you'll know that CANSUH is much different from cancer.

Cancer eats at your soul. It makes you sleep badly at night. You worry about it recurring.

CANSUH allows you to laugh at your disease. It narrates everything in a William Shatner voice. It lives in its parents' basement.

Cancer has horrible treatments, burning and cutting. CANSUH acknowledges that, and further, it gives you permission to bitch about the process.

Cancer demands that you be noble. CANSUH allows you to say "FUCK."

So, for Jenna with the crappy-ass, un-identifiable tumor, I offer the following, gleaned from my own and others' experiences:

1. If anybody starts a sentence with the words "My (aunt/cousin/relative/friend in Backobeyondistan) had that and she/he DIED," you are allowed to caress their cheek gently with a chair.

2. Any and all food is good. You can worry about your diet later.

3. Nobody is allowed to criticize your video-viewing choices. Me, I still watch "Burlesque" on the reg and do the dance numbers and sing along, even five years later.

4. If anybody tries to tell you that it's Not That Bad, you are allowed to smile thinly (practice this in the mirror for when you need it) and thank them for their concern. Make it withering.

5. If anybody says, "You look great! You've lost weight!" or "Your haircut is so cute!" you are allowed, without shame, to say "Thanks; it came free with the chemo" or "This is the cancer diet plan" if you're feeling snarky.

6. You are allowed to grieve, no matter how many people tell you that you need to be strong, or that things could be much worse. You are allowed to howl, and curse, and feel like nobody in the world will ever understand what you're going through.

7. You are not allowed despair. It's always too early for despair. Grief is fine, and anger is good, and turning your back on the world and your faith and being truly pissed off about where life has landed you is great. Despair, though? Don't allow that. It saps your energy.

8. Pain medicine has the added bonus of making you not give a good goddamn about what you're going through. I made some of my best decisions on Dilaudid, after surgery.

9. Allow other people to take up the slack. Hire a housecleaner. Hire a babysitter. Hire somebody to cook your meals. You focus on you. I did not follow this advice and am still trying to catch up.

10. If all else fails, punch something. Installing a punching bag in the garage is not a bad idea; it'll give you some outlet, even when all you can manage is one punch. Alternatively, for the days when you're too tired to punch, practice saying "FUCK" a lot, out loud.


bobbie said...

Wonderful, awesome advice... May I share it with someone in need of it ~ all proper credit will be give...

jimbo26 said...

Oh yes , go girl . ;-)

clairesmum said...

Indeed! the advice about despair is one that speaks to me.....having learned eons ago from a wise teacher that you always want to have hope, and help the patient/person have hope....what is hoped FOR may change, but humans need hope, til the very last breath.

RehabRN said...

Great list! I do not have cancer, but I have had to bite my tongue from saying #5 on behalf of some of my patients, because we discuss.

Number two is applicable to a lot of people. If food makes you happy, eat some.

I am just about ready to do number 10, so see, it helps. Share your bag with a friend.

Penny Mitchell said...

Fuck fucking cancer in its fucking fuckhole.

yrsis said...

When you got your diagnosis, a coworker told me a horrifying story about her uncle in India. I was too stunned even to interrupt her; I let the story dribble on to its "and then he DIED" conclusion.

Jenna, if you are too stunned to caress the speaker's cheek with a chair, please do not think you're some kind of wuss. Horrific behavior can temporarily rob you of speech and motion.

Being frozen in place just means that you are saying "What in the Sam Hill?" with your entire being, which is a perfectly reasonable response to this kind of behavior. You might learn another response, or you might just have to learn to stay away from people. Either way is totally justifiable and 100% what you can do if you want.

Heather said...