I had at least ten different topics set up for me to write about today, all far more intelligent and interesting than this one, but unfortunately, thanks to an uncomfortable shopping experience in Kilwins, St John’s Town Centre, Jacksonville, which led to a furious and loud car ride home, with lots of swearing, they had to be postponed so that I could share this with you instead. I have been promising this segment to you since I began this blog back in September but had never got round to starting it. Now, I can begin…
Today I was out shopping for gifts and doing what I love best, eating free tasters of fudge. I was very rudely interrupted by the guy working behind the counter across the store, shouting…
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! DO YOU HAVE POLIO?!
Straight in there at number one (and two) of what to say to a cancer patient.
Back. The. Fudge. UP.
First of all, I do not know what this guy thought he was doing. You do not interrupt someone when they are in the middle of eating free shit, in this case wonderfully creamy and delicious fudge. If he had known how long I had waited to see these free fudge tasters within arms reach, after years of visiting Kilwins on holiday where there had been what felt like bullet proof glass cruelly separating me from the way-too-expensive-for-a-ten-year-old-to-buy fudge. That was, to sum it up, out of fudging order.
Secondly, on a much more serious and pissed off note, it astounds me that anyone in this world can think that this is an appropriate thing to ask someone who is visibly ill, or even not visibly ill for that matter. It is LITERALLY none of your business what is wrong with me. I do not give a single shite how interested you are in my diagnosis, because I am not a walking spectacle. I do not exist as a curiosity for you to marvel at, a thing for you to stare at, a focus for your invasive and frankly disrespectful line of questions.
What is more, this guy looked out of this world joyful that he had met someone with polio.
Finally! One for the collection, this girl trumps them all!
I have never seen anyone look so full with joy, unashamedly marvelling at a person who happens to walk funny, who perhaps looks slightly different from most people. He had obviously got fed up of the cancer patients wandering in with boring old bald heads. Cancer is out, polio is in. Sorry fellow sarcoma sisters, we are old news.
The problem is, whenever someone decides it is their business and rudely asks me what is wrong with me, which actually has happened to me before and also has happened numerous times to other cancer patients I know, I always pause for a frustratingly long time. Because on top of being totally blown away by the sheer arrogance of the person asking, I have this annoying dilemma between wanting to tell the person that they are way out of line, so far past the line that the line is a dot to them, and refusing to be ashamed of having cancer.
So what I do is I tell them both, as follows:
Well that is kinda rude, actually. But no, I do not have polio, I have cancer.
Upon me telling him this, he sprinted manically out of the shop and out of sight. The other shop assistants unreassuringly reassured me that he was a nice guy, he meant well.
Oh, well I’m guessing that makes me the bad guy then for making this nice guy feel bad about being a total shithead. He means well? I apologise, if I only knew he had meant well when he invaded my privacy and made the whole shop turn round and stare at me for being different, then I wouldn’t have been so cruel and bitchy in my reprimand.
NO! I refuse to feel bad for asserting myself.
I want to mention here that although I give it all that chat, I really am not a confrontational person. I hate confrontation and do generally try my best to avoid it, but certain things, such as this, really get my goat. I explained to them angrily, feeling myself get flushed, the heat bubbling up from my feet to my cheeks, what he had done wrong. I could feel the people in the shop watching me and I tried my best to avoid their eye contact. There was no hint of embarrassment nor nervousness within me though, I knew what I was saying was right and was pissed off that these workers were defending this guy and trying to make me question myself.
So I explained that this was entitled of this man to feel that he gets to dictate what information I give him. I explained that I was not embarrassed about my illness and that I choose to talk openly about it, however that other people may not feel the same and may feel hurt and embarrassed about his invasion of privacy, and, of course, his douchiness (unfortunately I did not say that last bit in real life). But regardless of my decision to choose to share information on my cancer diagnosis, it is still on my terms. It remains my choice when and where I choose to speak about it. I also explained that I am not bothered by my crutches but if he were to ask me what was wrong with me in a few months time, when I have no hair and perhaps feel very self conscious, my reaction may be very different and that I would most likely end up incredibly upset, stripped of any self confidence.
As I was explaining this the guy zooms back in and produces two flowers that he had obviously picked from where they had been planted on the sidewalk. This is a no no. This is worse than petrol station carnations.
He gives them to me, and then digs this hole deeper. He is now on his way to Australia.
I want to let you know that I care about you, that someone cares about you. Because I know what it is like. My aunt and granddad had cancer. They didn’t win the fight. They’re dead now. I hope you win the battle. I hope you make it.
I HOPE YOU MAKE IT?!
I HOPE YOU MAKE IT?!
I HOPE YOU MAKE IT?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!
I’m trying to think of something witty to write but there’s nothing. I will instead just kindly let you know that this is not the correct way to phrase your wishes of good luck. The correct way to phrase your wishes of good luck is as so: “Good luck.” Or, the even more adventurous, “Good luck with everything.” If you can’t stick to these phrases and are dying to express your best wishes to a cancer patient but are unsure whether they are acceptable, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave it as feedback at the bottom of this page, or follow the advice of the Black Eyed Peas in the video below:
Also, don’t be telling someone with cancer that the people you knew who also had cancer DIED. It’s not difficult!!!
So it continues….
What’s your name?
Beth, you will be in my prayers for seven days.
What about eight?
No, just seven. Because I can’t guarantee I’ll remember your name for eight.
But for real, my mum and I are incredibly concerned that in seven days time we will be half way across the Atlantic. We don’t want to be running out of prayer luck there, so I’m thinking I’ll go back there in about five days time in a disguise with my sticks. If we can repeat all this and get another seven days worth of prayers we’ll be back home by then, safe and sound.
He then continued to talk about how he liked to “spin records”, how he looked like Joey Ramone (he didn’t), how he had “this crazy notion that at a certain age children should be taught to respect each other.” He also asked at one point whether we taught etiquette in England. The latter two are very ironic, yes.
After what felt like ten years, where he slowly, painfully and horrendously tied ribbons around the toffee apples we bought, the conversation finally ended with this:
When are you going home?
I would like to pick your brains. Come back in and have a chat with me. If you’ve got any free time I would love for you to back in and have a chat with me. I would like to pick your brains.
All in all our trip to Kilwins in St John’s Town Centre, Jacksonville left us with a not so sweet, but very sour taste in our mouths and I don’t think I need to spell out whether or not I will be going back. Apart from to make a massive complaint of course.
So! In conclusion! here are numbers 1 – 4:
1)) What is wrong with you?
2)) Do you have polio?
3)) My aunt and grand dad had cancer. They’re dead now.
4)) I hope you make it.
Hell, I’m going to throw this one into the mix too, because it is fudging creepy and it should never be said to anyone, with or without cancer.
5)) I would like to pick your brains.
Never, ever, ever say these things. It blows me away that I even need to write this but I obviously do. If you’re sat out there, thinking you’re a good guy and you’re just interested, that you just want to know what is wrong, then I will reiterate and spell it out for you a final time: Just shut up.
(The form for you to leave your most likely inappropriate good luck wishes in:)