Telling Friends and Acquaintances

>So, there’s one more role left. Anyone able to take it? Sarah, I’m looking at you.

>Erm, I can’t at the minute.

>Come on! Why?

>Errrr. My mum has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I don’t know how long I’ll be in this city for.


<Responses involving survivors>

>Heeeeeey. You’re back at home! How come? Shit round here innit. I’d escape again if I were you.

>My mum’s cancer came back. I’m here off and on until… the situation is resolved.


<launches into story about someone who survived>

I hate awkward silences, which is why I’m not big on sharing my emotional pain in public. People often ask why I’m back around my home town, and I’ve learnt not to go in to too much detail, and just use neutral code words like how the “situation” will be “resolved”, and not the thing I think that makes me well up with tears, like “when my mum is dead”.

If your friend/acquaintance tells you that their loved one has a really aggressive form of cancer, don’t start to tell them about people who survived. I really don’t find this helpful. Here’s why.

Hearing about people who “fought” cancer and “won” is misuse of language from a privileged perspective. What you actual mean is that you know someone who had a type of cancer that was treatable by modern medical developments. It’s sort of like saying to someone in a wheelchair: “Well, I can walk. So you can too”. And then doing a wee dance.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers and it has a 5% survival rate. This means that 5 years after it is first diagnosed, 95% of people are dead. So… fuck you and your fucking treatable cancer. Go do a run and wear a specific colour and make yourself feel like you’re “fighting” it, while other, presumably lazier or just generally less worthy people, don’t “fight as hard as you” and die.

I’m grateful that no one has ever told me to “stay positive” about the situation. I probably would have lost my rag, ranting on about how much pain my mum is in and how awful it is for her to be losing strength and mobility every day. “Take your positivity and shove it…” would probably by how I would finish.

And how am I? If I’m really honest, I feel like a bath.

My life is a bath, and her illness has taken the plug out. I’m a social person, but now, I don’t really want to talk, especially not to new people, those who don’t know the situation, who ask me normal questions like “What’s your job?” and I say “It’s kind of complicated at the moment”.

It’s nothing personal, but I can’t be around people just now. My body feels full of black dust and I don’t want to get you dirty. I don’t want to laugh, and dance, while she lies in bed, her face twisted with pain.


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