Mind you, I’m not looking for somber and serious and deep all the time either. It’s just that in this condition, diversions aimed to take my mind off cancer haven’t soothed; they often simply annoyed me instead. And that just left me with guilt at being rude to friends wanting to help. The end result for me has been that I tend to withdraw into myself rather than actively push people away. All of which brings out needless worry in my friends... and the cycle goes on.
Laurie Todd, whose book I reviewed last summer, describes herself as “a nice, polite, caretaking gal” her whole life… until she underwent a mammoth fight for her life against appendix cancer and her health insurance company. She recorded this outgoing voicemail at the time: “If you are a doctor with the HMO, I would like very much for you to leave a message. If you are anybody else, I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS!”
Other people I know have refused to take visits from people they were seemingly close to before their illness. And when they did allow others into the room, they sometimes shut them out with silence.
It’s hard to know what to do or say in the face of cancer. It dishes up more than its share of awkward moments. But it’s a good bet that perky can easily backfire.