One Great Way to Responded to People First Hearing About Your Cancer
A Cancer Patient and OCJ Podcast Listener Reaches Out About ‘Awkward Situations’
I recently received a message from a cancer patient who had just completed treatments. In the message, the sender commented on the awkward reactions they had received from people that 1) they had not seen for a while, and 2) the friend didn’t know about the patient’s recent cancer experience. Here is the response I sent them with a story on the lighter side of these encounters:
Great to hear from you! I think we all have had some awkward conversations with people that innocently asked what we’ve been up to when they had no idea about our cancer diagnosis.
After I experienced similar responses from unsuspecting visitors, I just decided, ‘what the heck, let’s have some fun with this.’ After I was well enough to stand up, and the wounds from the treatment for my head and neck cancer were healed to the point where I could speak again, I agreed to meet a friend that had not seen me for a while.
Meeting My Unaware Friend
I got dressed and put on clothing that covered up the huge scars, sutures, and radiation burns on my neck and upper chest. I met him for “lunch.” Because I couldn’t swallow solid food yet, I was hoping he’d ask one of the classic questions right out the gate. He didn’t disappoint.
“So Bruce, …Buddy! How have you been? What have you been up to lately?”
“I’m doing pretty well, except for that serious metastasized cancer diagnosis and the multiple surgeries and the high-rad radiation to my head and chest that left these wounds (pulling open my warm-up jacket to show the Frankenstein-like sutures and burn marks). Oh, and I almost died twice in the last three months. All in all, though, I think at the moment things are going relatively well. How about you?”
His completely shocked look (with eyes bulging out and mouth gaping open), was only seconded in entertainment value by his stammering and not being able to utter a single word as he tried to compose himself.
I immediately pulled an index card out of my pocket and held it up to him, and before speaking I let him read the little sign where only big bold numbers written in a sharpie pen appeared.
Let the Scoring Begin
In what sports broadcaster voice I could muster, I announced, “And in the Shock and Dismayed competition, the United States finalist receives a 9.5 score from the judges. Had the U.S. athlete only gagged or had his drink come out of their nose, they would’ve easily been awarded a perfect 10 score.”
Finally waking up from his dumbfounded stupor, my friend virtually yelled at the top of his lungs “WHAT THE F*** HAPPENED!” The whole restaurant ground into a halting silence and stared at him. We both looked around at the other patrons and upon realizing the commotion he’d created, he started laughing so hard he almost gagged. I pulled out another index card and held it up to him smiling and said,
“Congratulations, your score has officially been changed to a 10.0“
Once we have faced cancer, many of us realize it’s the small things in life that can bring great joy : )
Best, Bruce Watkins – Host of the Our Cancer Journey Podcast