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Are You Alright

July 7, 2011

Don’t ask questions to which you do not want to know the answer.

No, I’m not all right. I had both boobs amputated and it still hurts. My kid comes up to give me a hug and I have to turn her cheek so she doesn’t poke me in the radiation-softened bone that used to be my sternum. I lie awake all night wondering if a stealth recurrence of cancer is going to give me a stroke in my sleep and leave me a vegetable.

I have osteoporosis, at 42.

My arm randomly swells up and hurts.

When I turn my neck a certain way, to look and see if I am about to hit a motorcycle in my blind spot as I change lanes, for example, the muscles in my neck feel like I tore them. Every time. Oh, and yeah, I had a year of PT and I do my exercises every day. I just need to learn to live with it.

I have frankenboobs. Every time I look in the mirror after a shower, I feel like I am about to throw up, and half the time, I do. You would too if you caught an eyeful of the monster that is me.

I have had muscles from my abdomen and my back removed, and I don’t know how it can be numb and itch and hurt all at the same time, but it does, relentlessly.

My immune system is shot to hell and my ability to recover from disease is shot to hell, and then people think I am an uptight bitch for leaving the room when a toddler has a green snotty nose.

I’ve learned to live with all these things because the key word, live, beats the alternative, but no, I am not alright, and when people corner me and grab both my hands in theirs and give me the look of sympathy and say, “Are you alright,” I lie and say, “Yes” because it’s polite. But it’s a lie.

I’m not all right, and I never will be all right, and I’m okay with that, but when well-wishers who think that cancer is the worst possible thing imaginable (it’s not) ask me if I’m alright as a way of alleviating their own uncomfortableness with my reality, it’s not alright. Don’t do it.

Learn to say something else.

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  1. Chris A-L permalink

    Thank you.

  2. Gale permalink

    I’m glad you are alive, and if you have to be bitchy to stay that way, I’m totally for it. ❤

  3. Nicole permalink

    I love you.

  4. “Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink.” – Shunryu Suzuki

  5. Caroline Kirkpatrick permalink

    I understand more than you could ever imagine I do…In different ways, I have experienced stress beyond measure. It is harder for me to relate to all the physical issues you describe, but you can ALWAYS trust when I say that I am so, so sorry you aren’t alright that I am not doing it as a shallow well-wisher…Love you!

  6. projectoldbones permalink

    Thank you for the courage of your honesty. Many people want to be this honest. Good on you for actually doing it.

  7. Amy permalink

    Wow, am I glad I stumbled upon your blog when I googled the question “What is worse than cancer?”. I googled it because I have just been diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer on my small intestine. But I already knew the answer to my own question — there are lots of things that are worse (for example if one of my kids were seriously ill). Still, it doesn’t diminish the suffering of cancer patients. You write so honestly and naturally and well; you make important points; you make other people feel better. Thanks!

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