“Are you playing the ‘C Card’?” A friend asked me the other day.
I knew exactly what she meant, of course- asking for favors or sympathy based on a cancer diagnosis. As in, “I’m so sorry officer, I didn’t realize I was going so fast. I must have been distracted by my recent breast cancer diagnosis.” Playing the ‘C Card’ is despicable, of course. I think we would all agree on that. And yet…
“Of course I have,” I answered truthfully.
But it was just with my husband. It went something like this, in an after-work, pre-dinner scene in our kitchen:
“Hi Honey! How was Work?… My day? Well, my neck is kinda sore, I must have slept on it wrong.” There was a very teeny-tiny part of me that was hoping he was thinking, “sore neck? Maybe it’s the cancer- I better be extra nice.”
But there was only silence from Mike, who proceeded directly from the cabinet to the freezer to fill his glass with ice, and then to the refrigerator to cut a perfectly proportioned sliver of lemon. He ignored my sore neck to focus on what was really important- the preparing and pouring of the post-work scotch.
I began to kneed the back of my neck vigorously in front of him. Honestly, he couldn’t have missed it.
“I can’t really get the spot,” I told him as I gave my neck a crack on each side, back of my palm to chin with slight twist. “It’s SO frustrating.”
“Uh huh,” he responded, as he opened the mail.
“I could really use a little neck message.”
“Really, honey? I just got home. I just poured my scotch.”
“…But I have CANCER!”
“You’re not really pulling that one on me, are you?”
And it worked! I got my neck message. A good one, too. One administered with love and just the right amount of sympathy.
But the truth is, in my day to day interactions, I don’t need to play the ‘C card.’
Besides my immediate family, everyone, it seems, is nicer to me now that I have breast cancer. It seems I have done the right thing (for me) by “going public.”
Friends saved me a seat when I was late to a crowded cooking class.
I got many special, lovely, heartwarming phone calls, texts and emails.
I got hand written notes in the mail (who does that anymore?) from so many wonderful people (my favorites were a series of healing fish cards and the note from my daughter’s kindergarten teacher- the daughter that just graduated college!)
I got flowers and soup, despite the fact that I don’t feel sick at all.
I got a box of chocolates from my cousin that said, “Better After Chocolates”…we are a clever family, are we not?
I got a book on breast cancer and lots of support from people who have been there, done that, and are alive and well.
I got invitations to lunch and to dinner, just to catch up!
My girlfriends changed the date of a girls’ night out to accommodate ME!
I even got taken out for a foot massage! Over and above…right?
I have never been so popular.
And I’m not being sarcastic when I say so, I love it. I love the attention, the concern– I love all of it. I know it won’t last, but who doesn’t love being the center of it all for just a little while? Who doesn’t love getting the feeling that one would have a really big showing at one’s funeral if it all went wrong (pooh pooh)?
If you haven’t had cancer or something awful happen, you may not really ever know how many people care about you.
I am well aware that my news, my cancer, will become old news fast, especially when everyone realizes just how fine I am. I started hormone therapy in the form of last week. If it works to shrink the tumor, and I hope it does, I will be able to hold off on a mastectomy until the fall. That way I will have a few months to enjoy my summer while wrapping my head around having a part of my body removed (unlike my appendix, I’m kind of fond of the old boobies) and to decide if a two-fer is the way to go.
But before I become old news, I wanted everyone who has ever reached out to someone who is ill to know that your notes, your cards, your calls, your emails, the outings—they actually work. They are important. Each one made me feel loved, cared for, important, and that I would actually be missed if I weren’t around.
So, thank you for caring. Because when you stop, I may have to play the ‘C Card.’