For those who thought I would offer more writing tips today, hang on until tomorrow. I will be back wearing my writing hat then.
For now, please read along - if you have had cancer, if you haven't had cancer.... whatever. And truly, I don't write for people to tell me what they usually tell me, knkee jerkedly "you are so brave" and stuff like that. I am like the many out there who simply do what we have to do.
I am grateful you are here, even if I sounded cranky just now. But let's get to what is more important. The letter, to you -
Dear You, Who Hasn’t Had Cancer,
Today I did a rather everyday thing: I visited my dentist. Naturally before you get examined you subject yourself to the necessary paper work. You fill in the boxes and lines the old fashioned way: with a pen attached to a plastic clipboard with some strange silver necklace-pen keeper contraption they use in places like dentist offices.
I have always checked all the NO boxes.
No heart problems
No seizure disorders
And then came the one I wasn’t expecting.
“Cancer.” I dutifully checked yes. I figured since the dentist would be working
near to my face, he likely will notice
the snazzy heart shaped scar I carry on my left cheek. He will see closely puffy ridges where the heart of Nora, my Melanoma, lived. The form continued, "If yes? Where" I wrote ”Melanoma on my face.”
I didn’t have any gush of emotion like people tend to expect
from me. I have come to terms with having had melanoma and I have even come to
terms with the reality my scar may never improve. I can style my hair and wear
makeup so that it won’t show on stage, I am told. I just don’t think about it.
My eighty-two-year-old father couldn’t see it, after all, it must not be there. Except for when I look in the mirror.
It reminds me of all those lessons in childbirth I have taken. I took Bradley and Lamaze and read every book I could get my hands on – all of it. And not a single one said, “You may start throwing up right before transition. Do not be alarmed, this just happens whether you are medicated or not.”
They don’t tell you your body may go from six centimeters to ten centimeters (and ready to deliver) in fewer than ten minutes.
They don’t tell you that you won’t always feel immediately love for your baby, to be patient for that love to take hold.
With Melanoma, they don’t tell you your dermatologist may not remember you, even though he was the one who delivered the news, over the telephone while you are at the office of your son’s school picking him up one day.
No one tells you your relationship with your surgeon has many similarities with your OB/GYN. The appointments just keep coming and one time, he may be a curmudgeon and seem to be frustrated you sent him an email between visits and the next time he will praise your patience and even though you both know the shot he is about to give you probably won’t change anything, he’ll give it to you just to prove we have tried everything before he “will be so happy to do the revision surgery.”
It also reminds me of the time after my son was diagnosed
with autism: don’t expect there to be a wizened sage sitting at the end of the
phone line to listen to your wailing or just to be that someone to listen to you
talk about it for the eighty-seventh time that day after you fear you have worn out the patience of all your friends.
Instead you will have people tell you, “You are still worried about that?” or “Your scar isn’t that bad,” or “Well, my sister had three melanomas removed from her face and she looks great.”
You will have people email you saying, “Let me know if you need anything!” but when you call needing something, they are never around.
You will also discover who your dearest friends are: they are the ones who are simply there. They will follow your lead with love. When I was recovering, for three days there was a nightly mini-party at my friend Jennie’s house who graciously hosted me during my early days of recovery
The oddest thing of all, second to having to check YES on a form at the dentist’s office, is having some dear friends tell me they are walking a lap or two in my honor at Relay for Life. I am not in a place where I want to go close to where that is being held this year. I just can’t do it yet.
Nothing about my experience with cancer has been what I would have expected.
I sort of like it that way. I just wish someone had written me a letter like this, so I at least had some notion of what not to expect or possibly, in your situation you might experience….
So that is why I write to you today.
If the day comes for you when you get a phone call at an unexpected place with the news of your biopsy, remember this letter, and know I am pulling for you. I’ve had my own cancer journey as you may have or have had yours.
Reach out to those who love you. Forgive those who let you down and shower the others – including near strangers – with praise and admiration.
You can get through this, whatever your this may be.
With Much Love,
This post is Number 11 of 30 and was inspired in part by the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Throughout the month I will be posting writing and creativity tips especially to make your writing (and your writing experience!) better.
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