All the way to Dana Farber my sister and I laughed. We talked about our lives and the crazy things we think. We fought traffic and jumped the light when the bell at the mosque across the street started to chime at noon. Scared the living daylights out of her because she never realized there was a mosque there. We laughed. It was the first time in close to a year that the lab was not behind. I saw all my doctors on time. The day was going good. As good as it can at Dana Farber. Nothing made us cry at least. Small blessings.
We headed to the cafeteria shortly after noon. If you ever have to go to Dana Farber, and I hope you don’t, but if you do NEVER GO TO THE CAFETERIA AT LUNCH. You will never find a place to sit. We made this mistake and were wandering around the small seating area looking for a place. A woman sitting alone offered to have us sit with her. I did not want to but my sister just sat right down and started talking. I looked at my food and tried to eat. It was nice of the woman dont get me wrong. I just did not want to make conversation with a stranger while trying to eat. My sister, however, had no issue. As she talked to the woman I knew it was coming. The inevitable question that women with the same haircut at Dana Farber ask each other. So what kind of cancer do you have? Lovely question isn’t it. Like if we both say the same thing we can high five and do the secret handshake.
I have said many times, one of the things I hate most about cancer is that it is the most private thing you are dealing with publicly. Most people recognize the baldness and dark circles under your eyes and know you have cancer. It’s not being dramatic. When I first lost my hair I was very self conscious. I avoided all eye contact. I never looked in a mirror at a store or the gym. I was not strong enough then to say screw it. That day came but it took some time. Plus, besides being self conscious I hated “the look.” The look you get from other people when they feel bad for you with just their eyes. They are apologizing in their head and they just give this sad head shaking kind of look that sucks the last breath out of your chest. I hate that look. I’ve learned that when I see people who have cancer to smile. Smile big. It helps. When people smiled at me I felt normal. I felt like I had a full head of hair and I was just going about my day. I did not feel like the lone bald one. So take my advice and if you see someone with cancer, smile.
So there we sat eating a crappy calzone talking about where we were from. Did we have a long drive. Do I like my doctor. Eating and enjoying each other’s company. She told me that she has been coming to Dana Farber for over 15 years.She has been fighting lymphoma since 2000. I smiled and told her I felt for her. I understood the drive and the toll all the visits take. I sympathized with her that 15 years was a very long time and congratulated her on her strength and courage for the fight. Her attention then turned to me and I knew she was going to ask and she did, “What kind of cancer do you have.” I swallowed my bite of calzone and told her I had endometrial and ovarian. “Oh I’m sorry” was her response and then came the look. “Ovarian cancer is very hard.” Then poof she left.
I was sitting there, no longer hungry, feeling defeated. This woman who has been dealing with cancer for over 15 years feels bad for me. She gave me that look that says poor thing. Like regardless of her own lymphoma, I have been given a death sentence and I am just serving out my time. Now I’m sure she was the nicest person who has no idea she left me lifeless. She would never know that her comment has stuck with me for over two weeks now. How dare she get in my head. How dare I let her. Women survive ovarian cancer. It is possible. More women who have survived need to talk about it because everyone who hears the word OVARIAN paired with cancer, thinks death.
I’m not dying and I am tired of thinking that its coming for me. I have to prove I’m not dying every three months for the next three years then every six months for the following two. So I’m going to get her look out of my head and try living.