Last October I received an email from Sirius Radio station 102 (XM 155) in Washington, D.C. asking me if I wanted to share my breast cancer story with listeners on the program hosted by Molly and Christine called “Broadminded.” I felt flattered someone had taken the trouble to find my blog and ask me to do such a thing, so even though it made me a bit uncomfortable; I told myself I had to do it – for the cause, of course.
A few days later the show’s producer contacted me again to set up a time for my “interview.” That’s when I realized they had no interest in the details of my story; they only wanted a 60 second snippet. They were planning to air a segment every day for thirty days called, “Thirty Survivors in Thirty Days,” to be played as part of their breast cancer awareness campaign. I was to be one of their featured survivors.
At that point I felt disappointed and reconsidered whether or not I should even do the piece. You might say I was quickly humbled, or cut down to size. The magnitude of my story, for the outside world anyway, had been severely downsized. After thinking about it a bit, I decided to go ahead after concluding this was an honest attempt by two women trying to make a difference via their radio platform. (Thank you Molly and Christine). A few days later my “interview” was recorded. I tried to come up with something meaningful to say, not that easy when you only get a few minutes, ultimately to be whittled down further by the editor to a mere 30 seconds or so.
This experience was forgotten until recently when the station emailed me my recording. I decided to share it with you on my blog, so I put the link at the end of this post if you want to listen to my edited 30 second words of wisdom!
What I learned from this was that not that many people really want to know ALL the DETAILS about your cancer. When people ask, “How are you feeling? Or How are you doing?” not that many of them REALLY want to know. And that’s OK! Imagine how exhausting it would be if they DID!
Last spring shortly after my diagnosis, I attended a party where several people were gathered at my table that had yet to be told about my cancer diagnosis. During the course of the conversation, someone turned to me and asked, “Well, what’s new with you?” and I blurted out my story. I mean it was the only thing on my mind at the time and the words just came out, plus they were people who needed to be told. Immediately everyone at the table tensed up as eyes shifted uneasily in my direction. I quickly decided to condense my story down, way down, and just get it over with. I felt like I was reading a misplaced chapter in a book out loud to a group of listeners expecting to hear a different story!
I was never so happy to leave an event!
Then there is my oncologist, a very sweet and caring man, but I never really feel like he wants to know too much detail.
For example, during my chemo phase he always asked about side effects and how I was doing, but never seemed overly concerned when I described them because, I guess, they weren’t bad enough! Sometimes it made me frustrated, but then I realized he was too busy to sit there and listen to my, in his eyes, “minor ailments.”
Cancer details just make many people uncomfortable. Some people, even in my own family, don’t like to hear too much detail. Others want a bit more and still others want to know everything. It’s not that they don’t all care, it’s just cancer isn’t upper most in their minds like it is for me and they don’t need or want to be saturated with all the details. Figuring out how much to tell people is sometimes tricky.
At this point, after completing most treatment, it gets even trickier because now I’m supposed to be “over it.” When people ask me these days how I’m doing, I generally just say, “Oh, I’m doing pretty well, thank you, how about you?” Not very much detail there, but most people are OK with that, in fact, that’s all they want to hear. Often times I can actually see them breathe a sigh of relief.
If you are a cancer patient or survivor, in my opinion you need at least one other person (other than the online community, which I have found to be essential as well) you can confide all the “not so pretty” details to. There has to be at least somebody (even a pet can fill this role if need be) with a sympathetic ear to whom you can really open up to about every ache, pain, fear, symptom, sleepless night or whatever it might be. (Thank you David).
If you are lucky enough to have even one other person who is truly interested in ALL the details, you are blessed!
David likes to “brag” about my “interview” on satellite radio to relatives and others now. He enjoys teasing me by calling me a “celebrity” in front of them. He never mentions my edited-down “interview” was only thirty seconds. I guess they might know now!
If you’re interested, here’s the link to my 30 seconds of “fame” on Sirius radio. No details included! (The first person you hear really is a celebrity, Robin Roberts from Good Morning America).