Thursday Thoughts: Talking the Talk, Even the Tough Ones

Thursday Thoughts: Talking the Talk, Even the Tough Ones

This week’s Thursday thoughts blog arrives in time for Cancer Awareness Month, October. I realize that the purpose of awareness months is often for fundraising or if it truly is a rare disease or affliction, to educate people. But it does seem strange in this time to have an awareness month for a disease that has probably affected just about everyone on the planet in some way, whether personally or in their immediate family or circle of friends. I’ve had a lot of friends who have been personally affected by cancer through the loss of somebody important to them or by undergoing treatment for cancer. Thankfully, in most cases, my friends have battled cancer and came out the victor — so far — but I have lost some who didn’t.

 

Every year around this time I send out one of my #dailypics or a bonus head shot of me donning my ugly little gown at the Breast Center just before or after getting my annual mammogram. I haven’t gotten there yet in 2019 because I’m waiting on the wonderful red tape of insurance referrals and a doctor’s office slow as molasses in getting that over to me so I can book it, but I will be taking care of that soon though it will be in November rather than October this year. I’m still amazed at how many women whine about being scared or complain about the discomfort of undergoing a mammogram. I’ve had friends treated for breast cancer, and I have a hunch if you asked any one of them about how the pain of a mammogram compares to radiation treatment, they’d probably tell you to sit and spin on their middle finger. Well, a few of the feistier ones would put it that way but with a sweet smile. Heh. That’s what I love about them.

 

Just like a colonoscopy, getting a mammogram isn’t fun, nor is it comfortable or convenient. But it’s over before you know it and if all goes in your favor, one brief, uncomfortable experience can provide the most rewarding slice of reassurance you will get, and that seems like a small price to pay.

 

I can’t understand why a woman would continue avoiding an annual mammogram. Just don’t. Don’t do it, don’t overlook your own health because of fear or dread, especially if you’ve never had it, because you’re fearing and dreading something that you have not actually assessed for yourself before. Now how silly is that?

 

I don’t know a lot about cancer or cancer treatments beyond what I’ve learned from friends who have been open in sharing it, and I’ve always been reluctant to ask a lot of questions about chemotherapy or radiation treatment, what people can expect or how they will feel one week, two weeks or a month after undergoing treatment. I am pissed at myself for not asking more questions then, because now I have someone special to me undergoing chemotherapy and I wish that I could bring them more feedback and information from these survivors, especially considering how many friends have gone through this. But I didn’t ask the right questions I should have asked then, when I had the opportunity and a willing friend was opening up to me. And now I regret that.

 

This blog is less about cancer, Cancer Awareness Month or even that special person going through cancer, and it’s definitely not about me getting my boobs squashed like a pancake in a matter of weeks and urging other women to get that done, too. Nope, this blog today, these Thursday thoughts, are about questions and an urgent call out to you to ASK-MORE-QUESTIONS, especially the tough ones.

 

We in the United States are well,… a little chickenshit when it comes to dealing with topics we can’t even say without using euphemisms or shortened phrases like ‘the C-word.’ We are so afraid to talk about these topics that we can’t even say the word for fear of — what? That it’s going to crawl up inside and manifest in us? What stupid shit we think sometimes, don’t we?

 

Why are we so afraid to talk about cancer? Or death? Or making arrangements for after death? How many kids of the 70s and 80s like me have had talks with their aging parents about arrangements and what they would prefer when they pass away? I would venture to guess that a lot of people reading this are afraid to go there. Why is that?

 

ToughTalks

 

Are we so sensitive and fragile that we can’t discuss anything dark, mysterious or frightening? Shouldn’t we feel comfortable enough with our flesh and blood to ask what kind of cremation arrangements they want or requests for their funeral details? Or how much pain is too much pain and how long do you want the machines to stay on if you after you can no longer breathe on your own?

 

Did I make any of you reading it right now squirm a little in your seat or wish that I was speaking about one of my lighter topics? Yes, these are really tough questions but we should have answers to them and be mature enough, emotionally strong enough and completely willing to deal with a little discomfort to have those conversations and gather those answer. Yet many of us, me included, have begun conversations with friends who were undergoing or had just completed treatment for life-threatening conditions and we didn’t have the balls to use their experience as a teaching moment for ourselves. We didn’t ask them and how you are feeling now or what did it feel like when you were having it done? What was harder than imagined or different than expected? What do they wish someone had told them back then about what lay ahead? We felt it was too obtrusive to ask something so personal, yet they were sharing with us and we didn’t reach out to them and ask them how they were feeling or what it felt like.

 

I naturally interview people when I meet up with them. I tend to feel silence with conversation and ask questions. I tend to do more of the asking and nonchalantly defer responding to questions because I’m also a private person and an introverted decision maker so I keep things to myself unless I’ve already taken action or made up my mind. I don’t like to be influenced by others unless I seek out their advice,  so often that means I keep my cards close to my chest until I already know what course of action I’m taking. I’m not saying this is right or wrong and I know there’s other people that are like me, but I do know this about myself. I also know that I’m not one to hold back when it comes to making suggestions and offering advice, whether asked for or not. That can work against me. Hey, I’m being honest. But when it comes to asking those really hard questions about topics that I myself shy away from such as death or serious illness, I don’t always ask what I should and I’ve run into trouble when I had a formal interview to conduct with a current or former cancer patient, and in trying to be respectful of their privacy and listening to my fear of ‘going there,’ I could feel myself wincing as I skirted around a subject and didn’t always get the answers I needed for the story.

 

Yep, some things are tough to talk about, some really tough to talk about, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about them or ask questions to learn more — for our own benefit and who knows maybe for the benefit of someone special to us later on who could use that information we received directly from someone going through it. Why are we so afraid to talk about the difficult subjects? Why are we plagued with fear or hesitation when an opportunity rises?

 

My advice today: don’t cringe or hold back when you have a question. The worst that could happen is you don’t get an answer. Big deal. But if you do — if you do get an answer, you could learn learn something new about someone else — and possibly about yourself. As always, thanks for reading. ~ Chris K.

 

 

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