Cussing My Way Back to Health

Girl with Black Eye, 1953


I am not a “touchy, feely” person. I used to get in rock fights with boys when I was six years old. My rock fighting days came to an abrupt end when one of the boys threw part of a brick that nearly knocked my right eye out. I remember proudly showing my bloody war wound to my mom who almost fainted. When she recovered she called my dad, who told me over the phone that I was to start acting like a girl. Girls did not throw rocks. So when I entered the third grade I got in to fist fights with the boys on the playground.  I remember sitting in the principal’s office and being shown the “paddle.”  He told me, the only thing saving me from a good “paddling” on my behind was the fact I was a girl. I stopped fighting and graduated to “swearing.”

I grew up next door to a couple of retired Marines. They were husband and wife and they had a vocabulary that could strip the paint off a wall, especially when they were fighting. I was forbidden to get in to anymore physical fights so I picked up a few choice words from my neighbors that seemed to get the job done when it came to dealing with the opposite sex. During my years in grade school, I firmly believed that boys were stupid and if I couldn’t clobber one, I could tell them in a “colorful” way what I thought of them.

I didn’t know what cuss words actually were. They just sounded good to me, but that soon changed when I told my teacher that I knew “the goddamned answer!”  I found myself sitting in the principal’s office again getting a lecture about acting like a girl and that it was not lady-like to swear, and where did I hear that kind of language? Me being eight, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him, “What the hell are you talking about?” And he replied (or did he yell?) “That’s exactly the type of word I am talking about!”

That afternoon I found out that a bar of soap does not taste very good. I also decided that being a girl and acting like a lady was not for me: too many restrictions.

Fast forward to when I was diagnosed with cancer. My first words were, “rectal cancer my ass!”  I was now a fifty-five year old female but my inner tomboy never went away. I now speak fluent smart-ass and on occasion throw down some f-bombs when needed — for emphasis.

My “scrappiness” helped me get through thirty radiation treatments. The actual radiation beam did not hurt but soon after (especially when I pooped) it felt like a hot poker being shoved up my ass. Don’t get me wrong, there were times I cried but not out of sadness — I was pissed off! Then my doctors introduced me to the wonderful world of pain killers and I became this bubbly, happy girl, who loved everybody.

Drugs turned me in to a mushy girly-girl, much to my family’s angst. Who was this person? James, my son, wanted his mom back. He was tired of living with a beauty pageant contestant.  I do recall waving at strangers and telling them, “Hi!” everywhere we went. My husband told me after I was well that my “niceness” was so over-the-top it made him nauseas. James picked fights with me to see if he could get me mad, but I always responded with some sticky sweet answer. The day I told him to “fuck off” he cried with joy!  His mom was back and he knew I would be ok!

Everyone has their own way to deal with a crisis and having cancer qualifies as a crisis… no matter what stage. I just think it’s better to get mad than feel like a victim. Anger is a good motivator. Feeling sorry for oneself just makes things worse. Having cancer sucks, no argument there, but getting depressed won’t change things either. I’m not saying it’s never ok to feel bad, just don’t get sucked into a “black hole.” It’s too hard to climb back out.


I took pain meds to control… pain. There are meds your doctor can prescribe that can help you deal with emotional pain. Smoking cannabis can help if you are open to that. I never had a bad time when I was stoned (but that’s another story). Talking to someone who has gone through what you are going through is also a good way to release anxiety. The American Cancer Society has a group called Imerman Angels. They match up cancer survivors with newly diagnosed patients. I am available to mentor as well. Just send me an email. You can find that information on the “My Story” section.

I firmly believe you are stronger than you think.

Be well,