Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving

The following question is my kryptonite: How are you doing?

The moment I am asked this question, I become incapable of forming a coherent thought. I know that the person asking wants to know about my current state of being, but after three years of doing the cancer jig, I still haven't come up with that perfect, all encompassing answer. The one phrase that will satisfy that need to connect and effectively communicate my actual state of health constantly eludes me.

I understand that some people ask as a courtesy and are hoping for a simple, "Fine." I have other friends that are looking for in depth detail of what's going on medically and are willing to sit through thirty minutes of medical jargon and blood counts with chemistry panels thrown in for good measure. There are still others who want to know what's going on emotionally as well as physically. Then there are those who use it as the opening parry in a game of competitive woe.

I had that conversation yesterday with someone who has known me for my entire life. I love this person and understand that they have a very unique perspective of the world around them and their place in it. We don't always get along, but this is true of many long term relationships. She asked, "How are you?" Before I managed to get two words out she launched into the minutiae of every wrong done to her by a small coalition of people. 20 minutes went by before she paused for breath. 20 more elapsed before I realized that my cancer diagnosis was one of her woes. She wasn't upset that I had cancer. She was upset that the fact that I had cancer was happening to her.

I refuse to play the competitive sport that is "poor me." I cannot relate. If you want to compare notes for the sake of understanding how your illness relates to mine, I am there. If you want to pick my brain for what I know about leukemia, I welcome all inquiries. I want my experience with cancer to be informative to other people who may be overwhelmed by their own diagnosis. If you need help or a spare ear, I'm your girl.

Now, if you're going to use the fact that some latent genetic switch accidentally flipped on causing cellular anomalies and all around fun in the form of blood born cancer in my person as your personal cross to bear, then I have a problem. It's an unfortunate situation that I'm realizing happens more frequently than not to people diagnosed with a life altering illness. I'd be interested to know how other patients deal with it and the overall outcome.

The person to whom I referred earlier doesn't read the blog. I know for a fact that she's never touched a computer, so this isn't a direct message to any one person. I just felt that I needed to be honest about a residual issue related to my recovery. I don't think I'll ever be able to answer the question, "How are you?" adequately in an extemporaneous platform, and so I'll stick with the answer that I usually give. I'm fine.

The diaphragm issue isn't bothering me this week. I've been walking 30 minutes each day to combat osteopenia. It's been going well and I've been able to steadily increase my speed. I'm pretty confident that I'll start running next week and am excited to be able to join the ranks of PJ, Ronni, Susan, and Jim. I definitely won't be in the same class, as they are all serious runners and Jim is currently training for a marathon, but it feels good to look forward to doing something that I used to love doing. Since I still have issues with GvHD and heat, all of my running will be accomplished on a treadmill indoors.

Chris is doing well and staying busy with work. The cats have managed to stay out of the vet's office this week and are creeping closer to being buddies. I caught Etsuko grooming Akiko yesterday. Akiko tolerated it for a few minutes before it was time to wrestle. My brother got married on his birthday and started basic training for the Navy last week. It's been an eventful week on a personal front and I can say with all honesty that life is amazing and I really am doing fine.


Anonymous said...

Ann sometimes people who care about you want to know how you are doing physically and emotionally and I guess expecting a short answer doesn't make much sense. However, it is good to catch up once in awhile.I always want to know how you are doing and realize the questions are hard to respond to. "Nothing new going on" sums it up for me and if there is an issue I hope you;d update us all. If you ever want to talk about your feelings with someone outside of your immediate circle, you know you can write to me. Love, Judy (LLS)

Ronni Gordon said...

Great post, Ann. I have wrestled with the same questions. At this point I usually say something like, "I'm dong well. Coming along," which seems to acknowledge that they're looking for more than the usual "FIne thanks, and you?" without adding too much more info. For a small circle of people who really want to know, I do the counts. I do have a friend like yours. I've known her for ages and I really do love her, but her reaction to my illness has made it harder for me. She says it actually gave her post traumatic stress syndrome. That is why she couldn't visit me in the hospital. She did call me every day and was SUPER cheerful, as if needing a way to make up for not coming.

Hey, I'm not really running yet. I'll have to catch up with you!

susiegb said...

Yeah, really interesting, people's reactions! I remember when I was first diagnosed and telling work friends prior to leaving for a few months, and there were a few that I had to comfort, mop up their tears and tell them not to worry! I ended up getting sick of this and resorted to telling people by email!

Then there is my mother, who I feel I have to protect and not give her too much to worry about. So I don't tell her about the worries/fears I have (when I have them), and I also don't feel I can blog too much about that, because she reads my blog! Her worry/fear would be a huge burden for me!

Mostly when people ask me how I'm doing I am really upbeat and positive. And this is usually a true picture of how I am feeling. But also, maybe that's how I want to be seen, if you know what I mean ...

Nancy said...

I can relate to all of you! I thought you were on a bit of a blogging break and I didn't want to ask that all important question, "How are you?"

Glad everythings going well. Keep on blogging girl and stay well.
love ya, n

Marie said...

While my daughter was in the hospital (Huntsman Cancer Center) I got into the habit of always answering, "fine." One day the social worker asked, "How are you doing?" and I went straight into "fine" mode. She leaned over and whispered, "You know, around here we know that 'fine' is codeword for 'really crappy.'". Priceless! So anytime I answer fine when I'm not fine, I always think to myself, "really crappy."

Just know, that there are many people who you've never met who are so happy you are nearing the day when it really will be "fine." :)

Kara said...

I love watching my cats groom each other... = ) More often than not, it leads to a wrestle match with some neck biting.. lol

PJ said...

I once told my mother-in-law exactly how I was feeling--big mistake. Now I just stick with "hanging in there."

Wiley said...

How 'bout telling them you're "Fighting the Good Fight!" Keep on living the good life, Ann! We're pulling for you!