Cancer: the World's Worst Houseguest


Being diagnosed with cancer feels kind of like having a stranger barge into your home, throw everything you care about out the window, shut off the power and heat, then lock you inside … times 100.

You are sitting down to a nice dinner when you hear a knock on the door. That's strange, I wasn't expecting anyone. You open the door a crack to see who it is. He shoves the door all the way open and barges in.

It's Cancer, the World's Worst Houseguest.

He walks right past you and leaves muddy footprints all over your carpet. You are in shock. You didn't know there was any chance of him coming over. It was the last thing on your mind, but here he is, lounging on your couch like he owns the place. Who is this? What is he doing here?

Once the shock wears off, you try to talk to him. How long will he be staying? Why did he pick you? He just shrugs, rolls over and goes to sleep, snoring loudly.

You start to question yourself. If only you hadn't left the porch light on, maybe he would have gone right past your house. The neighbors whisper that you never should have bought that welcome mat. And the charming walkway lined with flowers just encouraged him.

The visit drags on and on. The days turn into weeks, and before you know it he has been there for months destroying your house and turning your life upside-down. You are exhausted because he wakes you up at all hours of the night. He walks around in slippers and thick socks, saying that your floors hurt his tender feet. He has puked on the carpet and clogged up the shower drain with his constantly shedding hair. He alternately eats everything in sight and complains that your food tastes weird. You notice that a few friends have stopped coming over, and you know that it is because they can't stand being around this guy. You can hardly blame them; you don't want him here either.

However, you also discover that you have an amazing community that offers to bring meals, help out around the house, and even drive your nasty houseguest all over town to his various appointments.

As time goes on, you meet other people who have experienced this terrible houseguest. Yeah, the same thing happened to me. He showed up totally unannounced and made me adjust my whole life to accommodate him. You discover that you now have membership in a club that no one wants to join, and soon you are swapping tips with others. When he kept complaining that my food tasted funny, I got rid of the metal cutlery and started serving it with plastic. He said it tasted much better! You find that together you can even laugh at his bizarre quirks.

After a while you start to get used to him hanging around, but you never forget that he is there. When you are feeling relaxed and happy, you hear him run to the bathroom. Your quiet book and cup of tea are interrupted by his hacking cough from the next room. He is always present.

Finally, after a seemingly endless string months, you kick him out of the house. You celebrate your freedom, but even then you find yourself checking the closets, peeking into dark shadows to see if he might be hiding somewhere. You think you hear him following you late at night. And every few months you get a message from him. He's considering stopping by again for a visit, but he's not sure. You peek out the window and think you catch a glimpse of him turning the corner.

One thing is certain: your life is never the same again after you receive a visit from the World's Worst Houseguest.

Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures (

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