Friday, September 14, 2007

day +24

My stomach was upset last night. It rumbled and made weird, troubling sounds during a stretch of the latter part of the night and it bothered me again this morning, but it has calmed down since then. I contemplated taking an Ativan, but I didn't. Otherwise, I feel pretty good.

I saw Dr. Roberts at noon today. Normally I'd take the subway to see him, but that's of course out of the question presently, so I called for a cab that picked me up as I wore my mask and gloves and brought me down to his office on 95th and Lexington. After our session, he helped me get a cab to take me back uptown to The Bronx.

Though I've been dealing with Hodgkin's Disease for close to four years, this is the first time that I've had to wear a mask and gloves when in public. My family and I have lived where we do now for about twenty-seven years. We moved here when I was three-months old and so, we know many of our neighbors in this building and in our development, but only a few know of my illness. It just happened that during these past years my illness and treatment wasn't noticeable. I looked healthy. Now that I'm entering and exiting the building donned as "The Man in the Surgical Mask," I've thought about what I will tell people when they recognize me beneath my green "Chicago" baseball cap and ask me what's going on. So far, it seems no one has recognized me or at least hasn't said anything to me, but I know the moment will come when someone does.

My cancer experience has taught me that once the truth is told, it becomes far easier to do and with that greater comfort comes a sense of spaciousness and peace. It's far more taxing to come up with some kind of a defense or lie and to keep it going, but I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't thought about doing so in order to avoid talking about the subject. But my thoughts about attempting to hide my illness is unlike me, because in so many other areas of my life I've been very open about it as illustrated by this blog, my psychological sessions with Dr. Roberts, and my participation in cancer support groups, forums, and online communities as well as my efforts to incorporate a more integrative approach to my healing as illustrated by the massage, and yoga, for example. Normally, I'd be at ease with talking about my illness but part of my hesitation is my parents' own reluctance to talk about my diagnosis with neighbors, whom they have known for years. I spoke to Dr. Roberts about this today.

There's nothing to be ashamed of here. I didn't do anything wrong. Disclosing one's diagnosis isn't a sign a weakness. It's a sign of openness and compassion. But for my parents and for most parents in the same situation, he said, for them there's the feeling that they did something wrong and that they're to blame when, of course, they aren't. This is the game of self-blame and shame that many parents of cancer survivors find themselves in. My parents - my dad in particular - doesn't want to field question after question and have to revisit every detail of my cancer history. He gets very irritated about this thought. For him, this is a very private affair.

I find it weird for me to be honest about other aspects of my life with these people whom my family and I have known for so long, but then to cover this particular part up. They've seen me through the various stages as I developed into a young adult and have shared in some of my achievements, such as graduating from Vassar or when I received the Watson Fellowship. Sometimes we as people like to show certain aspects of our lives but cover others. I think I know what I will do when I finally see someone and am asked about the mask and gloves. I've been here before though the setting was different and I remember how much better I felt after sharing the news of my illness with others. I just must remind myself that I didn't do anything wrong. Cancer is an equal-opportunity illness and that openness is a great sign of strength.

6 Comments:

Comment Blogger Veronica said...

I whole-heartedly agree Duane - being open is the best way.........I'm only learning that! I got embarrassed telling people about Wullie, not becuase of embarrassment of his illness but because of their reaction - I didn't want to make people feel awkward, but I've figured the more open I am about it, the less awkward they'll be since they'll get used to hearing it - not that I talk about it 24/7, but I don't shy away from it so often as I used to - stay strong, Duane, hope your stomach settles soon and your strength continues to build.......xx

8:27 AM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad you can express this as you need to deal with your illness the way you feel comfortable and not anyone else. You are a full adult and have the right to talk to anyone you want to and probably you will find most everyone to be totally understanding and supportive.
Thankfully you ahve the blog as an outlet too.

Keep up all the good strength you have physically and mentally. You are amazing!

xx
EFG

9:26 AM  
Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duane Today September 15th is Lymphoma Awareness Day!!

11:04 AM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks for letting me know that the 15th was Lymphoma Awareness Day. I didn't know.

Duane

6:51 PM  
Comment Anonymous Emily said...

Like every other challenge, I know you'll face it bravely and cope with it...being honest is the best way to go. Its not something to be ashamed of and your parents will hopefully understand that eventually. Keep kickin' cancer's ass! And thank you for loving my sister!.

8:00 PM  
Comment Blogger Jennifer said...

Ahhhh...the mask and gloves. I have been sporting these for close to a year now. And I can say there are many "looks." Mostly of 'are you contagious, should I stay away from you?' to 'you look stupid.' But then there are the kind hearted human beings that give a smile of hope or say 'good luck dear.' It's hard to "look" different, but at the same time it really makes you appreciate what you do have and look at those that don't have to wear the get-up as taking things for granted. Kind of makes me feel powerful. So I saw wear your mask and gloves proudly Duane!! Keep on Smiling, Fighting, & Laughing!!!

Love,
Jen

9:07 PM  

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