Monday, January 17, 2011
Something very strange started happening shortly after that. It had been long enough to where news of this was getting around to friends, acquaintances and strangers (though a friend who didn’t hear for almost 3 months would later say that this would be better as a very elaborate April fools joke. It isn’t but that’d be impressive). Part of that progression of news was human nature, our need to share, gossip or what have you. Part of that was my public approach to life having shared so much of my cancer details on facebook. As more people found out, all of a sudden, this was taking over odd things.
There were things I’ve always said: when people ask how I am, I say “I’m always good.” If that response is questioned/challenged I responded with, “Well, things are never so bad they can’t be worse” (A Lilly Tomlin quote). I went back to work and continued to use this routine response. Another phrase I have always used is “No one ever says on their deathbed…” For example, when people complain that they are too tired to go out that they are just going to home and watch TV or go to sleep I’d respond with “No one ever says on their death bed, I wish I’d watched more TV.” “No one ever says on their death bed I wish I’d slept more.” “No one ever says on their death bed I wish I’d eaten less chocolate”…etc. Anyway, you get the picture. I kept using this phrase as I always had. Part of it was that it just felt like a clever line and part of it was the fact I often really did make very small life decisions based on that. I know that’s weird but when making these small decisions I’d be like if I was dying tomorrow which one would I rather do. Yes I did this long before I knew about any of these events.
Well, the short version is I kept using these phrases. I once asked my mother if I had ever been shy and she laughed for several minutes. That’s the long way of saying that I have always been a ham and joked around and made fun of life and whatever was going on at the time. I continued to make jokes about life in general but because my life now had cancer confirmed in it, I made jokes about that. People asked about what my wife thought about it and I said “Oh she’s already working on her match.com profile.” A few days after returning to work to my coworkers as we went to another birthday lunch: “I’ll try to make this birthday less eventful than the last one.”
All of a sudden what had always been amusing turned to a new level: ‘You are so positive.’ ‘I love your attitude about life.’ ‘You’re an inspiration’ It was a little over the top because it’s not like I had changed anything. Some of the people who were impressed with me had always been impressed with me. My favorite were the ones who had been my friends and had not been impressed with me still weren’t. The annoying ones were the ones who thought that it was trite of me to say things like “I’m always good” and now thought it was such a marvelous thing. There came a point where I got so annoyed with one of the supervisors at work who usually was less than gracious was being extra polite and ultra sensitive and I said “Hey, I’m the same guy I always was, I’ve just got brain cancer now.” That made for an uncomfortable moment but from then on life was closer to normal with her.
People were apparently and suddenly very impressed with parts of my life that were unnoticed or unimpressive before: these phrases, me running, me playing sports. It was very peculiar. The phrase I got the most often since then was “You’re inspirational” or “You inspire me.” Since I was just trying to get back to my life I didn’t know how to make sense of that so I finally just came up with the one liner “Please do not get inspired to get brain cancer.”