Ever since I was first diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in February 2012,
people have felt the need to tell me what I "should" be doing, because, of course,
who else would know what's best for me besides everyone else in the world, but me?
Not that some of the advice wasn't good, and I definitely got some very
helpful tips on getting through my treatment, but some people, just
don't know what they're talking about, and should keep their mouths shut. Amiright?
I don't mean to offend anyone whose intentions are good, but keep in
mind that good intentions don't always have the best outcomes.
In my experience, people want to say something, and they don't know
what to say, so what comes out is often not helpful, sometimes offensive
and/or insulting (anyone else get the, "you have a nice shaped head" comment?),
and, let's face it, downright dumb (If I hear one more time how "lucky" I am to get new boobs...).
If you're not a doctor, please don't offer me medical advice. If you don't
have cancer, don't tell me how I should be living my life. And actually,
as a general rule, if you're not ME, don't tell me how I should be living MY life.
A lot of people assumed that because I was diagnosed at a young age
(30 years old), that meant that the cancer was found early ("Well, at
least they found it early, so you'll be just fine"). Then they find out
the cancer was stage 3 at diagnosis, and now stage 4, and they go silent.
But, unfortunately for me, only for a few seconds, and then they STILL proceed
to give me advice.
Seriously people, just give me the obligatory, "Oh, I'm so sorry, let
me know if there's anything I can do for you (but please, only say that
if you plan on following through) blah, blah, blah," and be on your way.
Not all cancers are the same. Not all people are the same. There are
any number of possible combinations of cancers and the bodies that they
invade, and no one, NO ONE, is going to respond exactly the same way to
treatments. Just because your mother, sister, friend, etc. is fine
(and, btw, yay for them being fine!), doesn't mean that if I do what
they did, I'll be fine too. In fact, the advice you give may actually
hurt me. You want an example? OK, I mentioned in an earlier post that
my cancer feeds off estrogen, so, in addition to being on meds that
block the estrogen in my body, I also try to avoid certain foods that
are high in estrogen, such as soy. So, your mother, sister, friend's
"cancer-fighting" diet that was high in soy, could, in fact, encourage my
cancer to spread.
So, thanks for wanting to help, but, if you're not
willing to broaden your views to include the fact that you could be
wrong, and hold back from getting angry with me for not taking your
advice, please don't say another word.
Just like you can't control what happens to you, only the way you respond,
you can't change other people, only the way you deal with them. People are
not going to stop being who they are, which is a good thing, most of the time. I
n fact, when people find out I have cancer, that's when their true nature really
comes through. Sometimes for the better, sometimes, not so much.
So how do I deal with people who respond to my cancer in a way that makes
me want to pour a bottle of hot sauce down their throats? I just have to keep
reminding myself that people, well, most people, are genuinely nice, kind-hearted,
well-meaning people, who just want to help. It also helps me to keep in mind that,
pre-diagnosis, I was probably guilty of doing the same things to others that people
do that bug me. And I want to apologize to anyone I may have offended back then, and
thank you for not punching me in the face, like I want to do to some of you now.
Post-diagnosis, everyone tells me what to eat, drink, and do to get rid
of the cancer and to make sure it doesn't come back (but I'm stage 4, so it's
not going anywhere, but that's another post). Some people actually get mad at me,
like tell me off, put a curse on me, mad at me, when they find out I opted
to get chemotherapy (which, yea, is essentially poison), rather than just
tweaking my diet to include "cancer fighting" foods.
Well, I have been a strict vegetarian for over 20 years, and went vegan
in college (which was really just a stupid time to make that change;
fruit loops and pop tarts, and pizza, oh my!).
In recent years I changed my diet status to "mostly vegan" because sometimes I
just couldn't resist a brownie. I ate all the fruits, veggies, and other foods
that are on all these "cancer-fighting superfoods" lists, for the majority of
my life. I ate raw, I ate organic. I avoided processed food as much as possible,
I also avoided sugar and salt, I drank 2-4 cups of green tea a day and the only
other drink I allowed regularly was water, often with lemon. I didn't smoke,
I only drank occasionally (ignore the snickering of my friends and keep reading please),
I walked 20-30 miles a week, biked 30-50 miles a week, did some lightweight
lifting 3 or 4 times a week... and I still got cancer.
So, if all of your "super foods" prevent cancer, why did I still get
it? No one knows. Do you? Because if you do, you need to get off your
ass and say something. You'll probably get the Nobel Prize, a crapload
of money, and be the most famous person in the world. Hmmm, I guess you
don't know since you're still sitting here reading this.
After my treatment I went to back to my "mostly vegan" status, because I
enjoyed that lifestyle. But I also allow myself to have a little treat
when I feel the need. And when I found out last year that the cancer had
spread to my bones upgrading me to stage 4, there was definitely a need.
Of course, I want to stay as healthy as possible, especially now that I'm dealing
with ugly side effects of hormone therapy (hello muffin top), and using my diet is
a good way to do that, but, especially given what I'm going through, I'm not going
to deprive myself just to avoid having to explain myself to those people who feel
the need to preach. Helpful advice is always welcome, but preaching is not.
So please, preach to yourselves, and let me have my brownie.
I know, "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." But when you're facing the very real possibility that your lifetime can be gone in an instant, a moment of edible joy is worth it.