I asked my husband and 14-year-old son what they remember about my two cancers – the first in 2011 and the second in 2016. My husband said, "I don't want to talk about it." My son said, "Can't we just forget about that?"
My son's response made sense. After all, during most of his early childhood, I either had cancer or was being treated for cancer and cancer-related issues. In those days, it was hard to parent. I spent a lot of time in bed zapped from chemotherapy. I cried continually from painful mouth sores, also a result of the chemo. I know he was miserable because I was miserable. Why would he want to discuss my cancer experience now?
But my husband's response surprised me a little. Most adults like to process trauma with conversation, right? My husband is an introvert, but sometimes, I can draw him out about important issues.
"Tell me your feelings about my cancers," I prodded him.
"I don't want to talk about my feelings," he said. I guess he was just being a man. For whatever social and psychological reasons, many males don't "do" feelings. So, I turned to my middle brother, who is a jokester.
"You whined a lot," he said. Why did I expect to get a straight answer out of him?
"No, give me a serious comment on my cancer," I asked again.
"That is a serious comment."
I know he wasn't being real with me because he and my sister-in-law used to tell me that they couldn't believe how well I was taking the whole cancer problem. With my husband and son, I could let my misery out, but with others, I did keep a stoic face.
My oldest brother took me seriously. "I view your cancer as your fall. Your fall from grace."
Now we were getting somewhere. But did I really like this honesty? Did I really want to talk about it?
No. I dropped the subject, not even approaching my mother on the issue. She'd say something like, "It was awful," or "You were brave."
Does anyone want to talk about cancer? It's a huge taboo and reminds us of our own mortality. So, what do people want to talk about?
The father of an old friend of mine used to say, "The weather is the only thing that changes."
And since I'm a resident of Northeast Ohio, this is especially true. One day it's a summerlike 80 degrees in spring, and the next day it's snowing.
My husband would gladly talk about the fluctuating weather. A typical conversation between my husband and our neighbor, William:
"How are you?"
"Fine. How are you?"
"O.K. It's going to rain this afternoon."
"I won't be able to mow my lawn."
"Well, there's always tomorrow."
"No, it's going to rain tomorrow, too."
Do I need to talk about my near-fatal cancer experiences? I guess so. Many would say that's what psychologists and your BFF are for. I have a shrink and a BFF. Can I bend their ears?
This is why I continually write about cancer. It's like talking out my feelings. I discuss the issue with you, dear readers. And for this, I am so grateful.
So today, you might consider having a heart-to-heart about your cancer with someone, but if this isn't possible, there's always the weather.