I’m writing a self-help book based on my cancer experience. The purpose of the book is to inspire other cancer patients to become an active participant in their medical treatment. I’ve joined a critique group (my second one because the first group of people were “too nice” and I wasn’t getting the feedback I needed to write a good book); the new group pulls no punches. I’ve been blogging for over four years now and figured it would be easy to write a book; it shouldn’t take no more than a few weeks. Boy was I wrong! The upside is I have been blogging and my posts are what I refer to because my chemo brain causes me to forget things…like timelines about events.
That being said, the people (about seven who show up on a consistent basis) are giving me their opinion and you know the saying about “opinions.” They are also giving me their perspective. For example: Several of them are hung up on the idea I wasn’t upset enough when I found out I had cancer. In their opinion, I should have had a meltdown…but to be honest I never did. I don’t operate that way. It’s not that I’m stoic, I just handle bad news differently. I prefer to get pissed off, be sarcastic and cuss like a sailor. These emotions work for me. And I’m aware they aren’t the normal response from so-called “normal” people. We all have our own life stories. We experience life differently. What seems like a normal response to you might not seem normal to me.
A couple of years ago I visited a newly diagnosed patient, whom I’ll call Jake. He was in his mid forties and had tongue and cheek cancer. Actually, Jake had known about the cancer two weeks before I met him, so I don’t know what his initial reaction was when he found out and I never thought to ask. At the time I figured it was my job to listen and not ask too many questions. Jake did tell me he thought his bleeding gums were from gum disease because he wasn’t very good about taking care of his teeth. It never occurred to him it could be cancer, so he didn’t see a doctor until six months later. He never said he was scared, instead he was annoyed he had to come in to start chemotherapy. He had better things to do than sit in a chair for four hours… like going to work. His doctors also told him he had to quit smoking and drinking alcohol. Jake was really upset about that. His whole life revolved around working and spending time at a neighborhood bar. All his friends were there. As far as Jake was concerned his life was over… at least his social life anyway. I wonder what the people in my writing group would say about that?
I saw Jake a half dozen more times and then he never came back. I have no idea what happened to him, which is common where I volunteer. My job is to be with the patient in the present moment and help them get through treatment. Often times I am the only one they can confide in, since there is no “talk therapy” for their anxiety and concerns (doctors just write prescriptions…which is a whole other post and will be in my book).
Jake and I aren’t the only ones who didn’t freak out, although I’m only guessing they didn’t because I’m only with them a short time. Who knows what happens when they are alone with their thoughts? I only know for sure what I think.
What I can say for sure is… my perspective is different than those who are in my critique group.
And that’s ok with me.