I just told them – called my parents (who hopped in the car to drive 300 miles to see me a few days later) and told friends in person mostly. My parents were great. Mom had cancer years ago and her treatment was much harder on her than mine was on me, so she worried and fretted good and hard on my behalf, but, then, she’s like that. Dad got stoic and supportive – and he’s like that.
Extended family took to sending me flowery cards with lots of ornate calligraphy telling me how courageous I was. HATED THAT! What exactly the hell is courageous about having cancer? Is it the not-having-a-nervous breakdown you’re so proud of me about? Would a less courageous person just, like, die, or what? I never got that.
One uncle started mailing me Bibles and books by Billy Graham. :rolleyes: He knew I wasn’t interested before that, but I guess he thought I might change my mind if I was facing mortality. In truth Hodgkin’s has a very high recovery rate (between 85% and 90% for the stage they caught mine in) and while the chemo’s no fun, chemo for other kinds of cancer are generally worse. My oncologist said, once, “If you have to have cancer, this is the one you want to have.” I never really thought my life was in danger.
One of my closest friends got closer. She’d dealt with serious illness herself, which I think is why she was so great to me. She’d just show up with takeout or something, grab my grocery list off the fridge and come back with everything, talk to me if I was feeling good, leave me alone if I wasn’t, never any fuss about it, no soul-searching gazes full of sympathy and admiration etc. etc.
Another of my closest friends got distant on me. My diagnosis came at a very inconvenient time – she and I (and several friends) were planning a project together, and we were arguing about the schedule; I thought we needed to slow down, she wanted to hurry up. Then I had to pull out of the project completely to go do chemo, and the project had no choice but to stall while she found someone to replace me. I think she wanted to be mad at me, but you’re not allowed to be mad at cancer patients! Also, she had not ever been really sick and didn’t know how to be a sick person’s friend. She apologized for that some years later, after she had a very difficult pregnancy and came to understand firsthand.
Best of all was my then-future husband. He’d recently watched his mother die of cancer and I know it was incredibly difficult for him to face my being sick, too. We were having a bi-coastal courtship. He flew in to see me as often as he could afford to, which was every six or eight weeks, and talked to me every night on the phone. He went with me to chemo whenever he was in town. Now, THAT’S courageous. I lurve him.