I’ll start with FUCK. THAT. NOISE. ^ because it’s easier than the intimate stuff. This…thing is on the wall of the exit hall leading out of all the oncology exam rooms. I hate to say, but this is far from the worst. The whole place is soaked in crap like this, and worse, deep catholic sentiments (quotes from motherfucking “saint” Theresa* and the like), and the rest is all “brave! hope! courage! faith! positivepositivepositive!. It’s enough to make a person puke and not stop. So, “Be Brave” with a cutesy arrow. Obviously, no one thought that one over very much. Implicit bigotry is always there, and obviously the, er, person who did this didn’t think at all. I could never in my life call the person who did this utter piece of shite an artist. Ugly, tacky, racist. It should be burnt, along with all the rest of such crap.
What does such an admonition do for someone who is almost catatonic with fear? How in the fuckety fuck does such a thing help that person? It doesn’t. It’s yet another scalding burden to place on the shoulders of that person, that something is terribly wrong with them; that they should not feel fear, no. They should square those shoulders, jut that stiff upper lip, be brave. Fear and anxiety are perfectly fucking normal when you get to hear It’s CANCER. Each person is different, and even those who manage to take the news with equanimity do not need to see such shit. We do not need to be told we should be “brave! hope! courage! faith! positivepositivepositive!. We should not have to confront such crap at every turn. Sure, there are people who might love seeing fucking Theresa quotes, but you know what? You can get such shit at home and your place of worship, if that’s your thing. And once again, those of us who are godless are not even considered when all this littering of religious crap is being done. People of other religious beliefs are not considered either, no, it’s all christian crap. The people responsible for picking this absolute shit out need to be taken out behind the woodshed and given one hell of a good smack.
ETA: To all the offended Christians: this notion that christian sentiment is somehow universal shows a breathtaking arrogance and an appalling lack of thought when it comes to other people. My cancer is not about your god, and no, I don’t give one tiny shit what you think about it. Anything me is not about your god. Please, keep that nasty god to yourself. You can drape yourself in instruments of execution, rosaries, prayer books, all that, but try to get it through your heads that it’s personal, and it does not apply to all people.
There is so little thought when it comes to cancer decor, and yeah, that’s a fucking thing. There’s zero honesty in any of it, it’s just “open your mouth and swallow the bullshit, honey, and if you aren’t brave and hopeful and full of faith, well that’s on you. YOUR FAULT.” There is no recognition of all the actual emotions threatening to boil over. No anguished “why”. No fear. No anxiety. No head full of thoughts and questions about how you will manage anything. No anger. No FUCK. No spectre of death. The other side of cancer decor is all obsequious gratitude, generally in the form of survivor art. There’s one of those pieces hanging in the oncology waiting room. No, there’s nothing wrong with being thankful and happy you made it out the other side with your life, but this kind of crafty art is terribly grating, because it evokes people on their knees (in this case women, a group of breast cancer survivors) giving worship. Fuck that noise too. Medical are doing their jobs, it’s what they do, and I’m pretty sure they’re thankful for every patient who survives, but you don’t find them doing worshipful art pieces. There’s a terrible imbalance in Cancerland. People end up feeling like it was the bad old days, where doctors were gods, and you didn’t dare make a sound, but meekly went toward any treatment you were pointed at, and no matter what happened, you should be on your knees in gratitude. Cancer has a way of smacking you the fuck down, and until the anger shows up, you don’t feel terribly strong. Or fucking brave. For some people, the fear will dominate, which tends to keep them quiet, even when they shouldn’t be. You can recognise them, like sheep being led to slaughter, meekly plodding along. All the “brave! hope! courage! faith! positivepositivepositive! crap doesn’t do anything for them.
So here’s a thought. Take all the “brave! hope! courage! faith! positivepositivepositive! crap, pile it up, and burn it. Instead, get warm, colourful posters and photographs. Flowers, water, dance, play, beautiful things which provide slender threads to good memories, to future hopes, threads which keep a person linked to thoughts of life. Things which represent to ALL people. No false cheer. No fucking admonitions. No hint of anything being your patients’ fault. Warmth, colour, life. Let people make their own associations, the ones which are most important to them. Cancer decor, as it now stands, needs to die, stat. It’s probably helping to kill a certain percentage of patients. Trite bullshit doesn’t help anyone. Stupid clichés that you’ve heard a million times don’t help. If you’re setting up an office somewhere, be original and actually think about your patients, think about how much this twee garbage does not help. Think about what might make you feel better if you were in the cancer seat. From now on, I might have to make sure I don’t have a lighter on me when I have to go to oncology. The temptation to set all that shit on fire is near overwhelming.
Okay, on to breakdown days. They will happen. Might not happen often, might not happen more than once, but one of them has your name on it, and will hit with the force of a sledgehammer. Mine was a couple of weeks ago, when treatment had been pushed back for the third time. I found myself crying. In public. For me, that’s unthinkable and it was mortifying. I couldn’t stop, and I wanted to start screaming all of my fury, too. The whole mess didn’t last long, even though it felt that way. I was back to my normal cynical humour, but that breakdown left a deep and lasting mark. It’s one which won’t go away. It took too long for the penny to drop, but I finally realised that if anything pushes me off the mental cliff, it will be Go sit in the corner and waitwaitwaitwait. I don’t have any way of coping with that one. I just want this DONE. It’s the one thing you think about, being done. Over. Out. I found myself in the position of getting in the door, but I couldn’t even see down the fucking hall, let alone the exit door. I’m not one who sees any virtue whatsoever in patience. I can be remarkably patient when there’s a clear end goal in sight, and there’s a specific time limit. But vague, hand-waved waiting? No. What will get me through is having treatments on time, on schedule. And yes, I am all too aware that people are looking out for me, making sure I don’t get even sicker and have yet more to deal with. Yes, I am all too aware that chronic liver inflammation is a precursor to cancer. I also know that chemo increases the chance of another cancer down the road. I know all that shit. Doesn’t help. There’s already a small well of despair in my head, trying to prepare me for another four fucking weeks of waiting instead of the next cycle. One thing is sure, if that happens, I’ll be sure to be ensconced in the car if another breakdown day comes my way, so as to at least preserve a bit of dignity. A sense of dignity can be hard to come by in Cancerland. Whew, I did not want to share any of that, but honesty seriously counts in Cancerland, and it has to take priority. That’s all I have for this chronicle.
*All the people Theresa “ministered” to were put on filthy cots on dirt floors, and denied pain medication, although it was available. Terminal people in immense pain were told “suffering brings you closer to god.” Yet, when Theresa was ill, she was put on a jet, flown to the U.S., put in a private room with all the amenities, which would be way out of reach for most people, and you can bet she was given more than adequate pain meds. She deserves zero respect, she was an immoral hypocrite.