Every spring, for about a week, the pollen descends. It covers cars like a thick dusting of snow. You track it across the kitchen floor, the cat drags it in, you wash it from the window screens and wash it off those nice new black pants. And if you suffer from allergies? Kiss your usual face farewell. I'd take a photo of what my eyes look like right now but I'd hate to make you spit out your coffee.
I was ruminating (yes, I've been known to ruminate, fulminate, and ponder about cancer related issues DAILY) about an emerging oddity in cancer culture a friend told me about Sunday. It's a new version of the blame game.
The blame game -- especially as far as women are concerned - has been with us ever since Eve. Its range stretches from "what did you do to deserve that?" to "what did you do to deserve THAT?"
Surely, this line of reasoning goes, you did something to get raped, abandoned, fired, or now, diagnosed with cancer.
Here's how it works.
Bad character, "You seem sorta down."
Good character, "I am. The coolest woman I know is dying of esophageal cancer. I'm flying out to see her this weekend - probably for the last time."
Pause. Bad character (how could I make this up?) "Did she smoke?"
Good character, looks at the other, runs character analytics, measures the metrics of the friendship. "No, and you can blow it out yours."
Good character. "But I can't believe it. She's the healthiest person I know, eats organic food, exercises. All that. And this is her third bout with melanoma."
Bad character. "Does she lay out?"
Again. Why would I make this up?
At best these exchanges are the grist for Miss Manners or the king of manners, Christopher Hichens.
At worst these cases bode poorly on the capacity of one person to have empathy for another, for the capacity to share, to be human.
When people use prevention messages to distance themselves from experiencing the pain of another's cancer, then we have more work to do than raise awareness. Sometimes too much information is just that: too much. Let's continue to deconstruct the fear so that people aren't so afraid of being diagnosed with cancer that they can't hear what another person is saying.
After my friend told me about this I took the dog for a long walk then sat down on the deck. I put my hands down on the armchair without thinking. They were covered with pollen. It's like these inhuman reactions to real human suffering. I so wanted to wash it all off.