Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Saying What I Need, Shunning What I Don't

Since coming out with my diagnosis, some people have taken it as permission to chime in with opinions and advice I never asked for. On one hand I can understand the need for them to dish it out if the feeling of helplessness is too uncomfortable to bear. Instead of sitting in silence, they'll say anything in the hopes of being useful. But on the other hand, shove it? I'm sure it comes from a place of good intentions, but instead of feeling better I actually feel worse when my lifestyle is suddenly under your microscope.

"Stop cooking fried stuff." "Why are you eating that?" "Drink this cancer cell-killing tea." "It's because you don't eat enough."

Yes, I got cancer because I don't eat enough. Good God.

I'll laugh and smile and hear them out of politeness, but once I'm back home I'll realize that wow, that didn't help me at all!

As I've been bringing this annoying phenomenon up in conversations, there's a good suggestion that's been made several times, one I'm going to heed as I enter the treatment stages: saying what it is I need and being clear about what isn't helpful. You'd think common sense would keep friends and family from coming at me with say, "hurry up and get pregnant" or "see, you always said you didn't want to have kids" after I've mentioned several times that being on Tamoxifen for five years means no pregnancy until I'm 36, but alas. So to protect myself from crying every time someone offers up an insensitive comment or medical advice that's more quack than fact, I letting them know where I'm drawing the line.
What I Need...

1. Understand that no one wants to talk about their sucky bits 24/7. I sure don't. While I'm happy to give updates, I don't want it to be the sole reason why you're reaching out. If we had good conversations about deep stuff, life, silly randomness, our hopes, our goals, the whole lot, I so need to keep that in my life.

2. All this has made me realize how tired I am of difficult friendships. You know, the ones that take Herculean efforts to arrange a meet-up because everyone's too busy, too broke, too lazy to put in the effort. So lately I've been nurturing the ties that are healthy, genuine, good, wholehearted, fun, where everyone's equally invested into strengthening those bonds. That's where I want to spend my time and mental space. More happy, less anxiety.

3. If you can or are interested, read up on what I'm going through. It's such a nice relief to talk with someone who has an idea what I'm referring to when I mention BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes or what the side effects of radiation will be.

And What I Don't

1. Random health advice that comes from hearsay and what I like to call woo woo shit. Before you suggest something I should try, do some homework and know that just because someone else did it, doesn't mean I have to do it or that it will produce the same results with me. Run everything through a bullshit detector. Ask questions - especially if it sounds too good to be true.

2. Criticisms on personal and medical choices, past or present. You're free to ask questions about how I came to my decisions, but there's really no place for judgment here.

3. Don't overwhelm me with info, stats, or questions about freezing my eggs. I can only handle one step at a time and any more could just freak me out.

But I think the following applies when trying to comfort anyone going through a difficult time: when in doubt, ask before rushing in.

13 comments:

  1. Very brave of you to put that out there. Good on you!!!

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    1. Thanks, lady. I need you around for my dose of boom pow!

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  2. Preach it, girl! You are so right....this isn't just about your diagnosis. It's about anything in life that isn't going as planned.

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    1. Seriously! And thanks so much for the card you sent along last month, Kelley. It's been really nice to get some snail mail.

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  3. Oh darling, I'm sending you lots and lots of love. Whenever you want to talk, I'm here. Do everything you need to to take care of yourself. Our bodies and spirits are all so different, and I'm sure you will figure out what works best for you.

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    1. Thanks, Brandi. Do let me know when you're back in the city for a visit.

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  4. Great post. For many people, it's so hard to focus on what someone going through a tough time needs - they get caught up in dealing with their own discomfort. I'm glad you're being clear about what people can do to support you.

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    1. Well I'm sure it'll take some practice before it sticks.

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  5. Please direct those individuals to me. Thank you :-) xoxo. ps. I'm so happy you're ridding your life of individuals who do more harm than good and bring more negative energy than positive energy. cancer or no cancer, ain't nobody got time for dat.

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    1. Thanks, sis. It's meant the world that you've been so proactive about this especially in the beginning when I was too scared to read anything myself. Love you :)

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  6. Very good points. You certainly don't need all that crap coming from insensitive people right now. Stay positive, I know you will overcome this.

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  7. Unsolicited advice is the worst. I don't know why everyone feels the need to weigh in with an opinion on EVERYTHING.

    I hope you're doing okay and that you get exactly what you need from the people that you love.

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  8. Way to put it out there. Tell me, has it been working?

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