Friday, 5 September 2008

Last Weekend of Freedom, part 1

This past weekend was my last of relative normalcy in SF. I went to my first day of school- senior collection- with a weight on my shoulders that was unrelenting. How will I tell people? Will I have to quit school? What will my professors think? Fashion design is my livelihood, passion, my entire identity. Without this medium of expression my life feels pointless. In short: I WANT TO FINISH SCHOOL, regardless of cancer. I felt welcome and accepted by my peers and teachers, which was a great comfort. I can do this.

I am learning quickly how to deal with people who have just learned you have cancer. The response is often awkward. People are sympathetic, of course. Overtly so. They like to tell me about their gran or aunt or boyfriend's stepmother's friend's dog that got prostate cancer and died and shit, was that sad, that dog was so cute.

I find the most helpful reaction is a sincere "my thoughts are with you" followed by something funny about fake hair or du-rags. No stories of old people you know who died, no "but you're too young to have cancer" (how on earth is that helpful?), and DEFINITELY no "I'm so sad, you're making me cry, why me?". Why you? If I can deal with it, you can deal with me dealing with it.

I remember when my friend Sara told me she had non-hodgkin's lymphoma when we were attending community college. I was shocked at how stoic she was. All I could do was ask questions about treatment and say "I'm sorry to hear that, I hope you get better." I get it now! We have to tell 50 million people the same story over and over. It gets easy. Dealing with people's reactions does not...

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