I’m being stalked by a psychic vampire. She’s the one who only has interest in me because I’ve got cancer. Who, instead of adding to my life is sucking energy from me. She monopolizes my attention at social events, inundates me with information that I don’t want or need, and has talked about me with others.
The kinder, gentler side of me acknowledges that she means well, but every other part of me shrieks, “I don’t care! Make it stop! Make her go away!”
My friends and support group have counseled me to not respond to phone calls or emails – easy enough. The other part of their advice is harder; when I see her in person, I should shut her down immediately. “I don’t want to talk about this now.” This is difficult for me on a couple of levels. Of course it is hard to do something that might hurt her feelings. It is also difficult for me to voice something that is a bit of a lie; I want to talk about all of this – the cancer, my health, the uncertainty I’m living with, thoughts of death and dying; I just don’t want to talk about any of it with her! I don’t want to spend my time with someone who only sees me as CANCER VICTIM.
I know that I will need to learn to increase my boundary setting skills. She might be the first of her kind that I’ve met, but she probably won’t be the last.
For those wondering how to best deal with a person living with cancer, I’d refer you to this blog post by Lisa B. Adams.
Lisa talks about some of the stupid things people say and gives hints on what are better things to say. One of her hints that hit home for me was “One thing I think is very important is to always say to someone who is ill or has experienced a death in the family: do not write me a thank you note for this. Do not feel the need to answer this email. Do not feel the need to call me back.”
When I was first diagnosed and immediately after my surgery (yeah, all of less than 2 months ago!), I received lots and lots of cards, calls, emails, packages. And my brain was complete mush – I didn’t have the capacity to be able to answer everyone, thank everyone, even to acknowledge everyone. Really, if it wasn’t right in front of me at the moment, it wasn’t in my mind (sometimes even if it was in front of me at the moment!) Knowing that it was OK to not respond was a huge relief. I could focus on healing and figuring out where my life was going with my stage 4 diagnosis.
I am muddling my way through this cancer thing, and I know the people around me are, too. So as long as you’re able to view me as Lisa, not as Lisa’s got Cancer, then all will be good.