Sunday, March 14, 2010

"You Look Great!"

Since this has happened to me, I wanted to share this link to a post entitled "Cancer made me beautiful" by Ann in Sacramento.

Several times a week, people say to me, "you look great!" or "You're looking good!". And, I thank them but I do wonder things like, "What? Do you expect me to be at death's door?" And, sometimes, "Well, maybe I look great but I'm tired as all-get-out. And, the swollen lymph nodes under my left armpit (or the lymphedema or healing fractured ribs on the right side) are painful."

It always surprises me because while I try to cultivate happiness by being mindful and aware of each moment, I'm not always happy (my family can attest to this). I worry about finances and I worry about whether or not I can do my job (expending energy teaching is a case in point).

I imagine it's hard for people to figure out exactly what to say to me - this was something my therapist and I talked about last week. There are times when I want people to treat me normally - and I expect myself to try to live life as "normally" as possible. I want to be normal. I don't want to admit that I have limitations to my activities because of cancer. That pisses me off.

On the other hand, I have to be realistic and so I have to communicate to my volleyball teammates that I don't think I can play at the moment - and I feel like I have to make a case to prove to them why I can't. I have to ask my chair to give me sick leave so that I won't have the weekly energy drain that teaching brings - and again, I have to "prove" that I'm "sick enough" or "tired enough" to justify taking the sick leave.

I imagine sometimes that my friends and colleagues don't know what to do because my asking for sick leave (or whatever) runs counter to the way I look and to the way I want to be treated because I want to be normal. So, then I get pissed because I don't think people believe me because I "look great" - if I "look great", I must be a charlatan to want sick leave. So, while I look and act normal most days, I really do need these special concessions and I don't want people to second-guess me.

To get back to Ann's post, she says that she likes it when people tell her she's beautiful. I guess I do, too. It means that my efforts to live life in the moment and to cultivate happiness are working. But I really do need to take some sick leave (not all the time, but after treatments) and take care of myself. I'm not sure that that helps people with the dilemma of how to interact with me . . . but maybe this helps people understand me more.


mapdr said...

Dee, ʻnormalʻ people have limitations. I know many people want to think they can do anything at any time, but the reality is the body changes over time. Physique fanatics do their best to look great and that costs them in other areas. I know, I know, you just want to be able to do the things you used to be able to do just a few months ago. I know you can make a compelling arguement for being a yang personality and having been able to get out and DO things all your life. Youʻve had limitations in other parts of your life and being able to DO things was your freedom from limitations. This is not a lifetime limitation, it is a pause. An opportunity to observe the world and those around you from the perspective of a victim. That is what you believe they see, isnʻt it? I certainly donʻt see it. Iʻve said it before, sweet one, you are my hero. But, what I think is not as important in your life as what you believe. You have fought long and hard to NOT be the victim, the underdog, the underprivileged. Your intellect and emotions have evolved greatly since you first felt that way decades ago. Allow your spirit to guide you to another dimension of understanding. Your teammates and colleagues probably donʻt understand and though most of them empathize with your situation, Iʻm willing to bet that most of them prefer denial....and a few of them will have the arrogant audacity to believe you are ʻfakingʻ it because you ʻlook goodʻ...but they will not have the courage to say anything. It might be an interesting anthropological project to interview them and ask them to honestly reveal their feelings about you and your situation. Do they think of you as a ghostly presence? I know that is kind of morbid and maybe you donʻt really want to know what they feel, but you can certainly note your interactions with them. Iʻm sure you are not the first tenured faculty in a Div 1 University that has had to deal with this but has anyone studied it from an anthropological point of view? I canʻt think of anyone more suited for the job.

Dee said...

Hi Renee,
I like that - these present limitations are just a pause. I don't particularly like the idea of observing the world around me like a victim, though. I'm not a victim. I don't think like a victim and yes, I fought long and hard not to be a victim. I don't think people around me see me as a victim; to the contrary, I think they are surprised when I ask for sick leave because I don't look like a victim; I do, however, feel that when I ask for sick leave, they must think that I'm making it up, that I must not really need it. I think, though, that my colleagues are caught in a bind - they don't know how to treat me since sometimes I want them to see me as normal and sometimes I want them to agree with me that I need sick leave and it's hard for them to figure out which persona I am at any given moment; hell, sometimes it's hard for me to figure it out, too!

I don't think they think of me as a ghostly presence, either. I make sure that I'm not! What's interesting, anthropologically, is to see how people interact with me, as a metastatic patient.

Was that clearer for you? Love ya, girl!