Thursday, January 27, 2011

A...kward

The short version is that part of being me has always been comfortable making people uncomfortable. I'm that guy at the party who doesn't shy away from bringing up the controversial stuff, no hesitation introducing significant topics like politics, religion and sex and no pause in playing devils advocate. Sometimes this has gotten me some labels that were probably well deserved because of me creating the awkward situation.

I guess the universe decided that turn around was fair play because the awkwardness started turning itself around on me. I very quickly decided anytime this topic came up to avoid it, not so much because I was uncomfortable discussing but because I was uncomfortable with other people's discomfort. Human beings have a hard time dealing with change and death and unexpectedness... this only included, you know, all 3 of them. So anytime anyone asked anything about it, I gave them as many outs as possible. For example:

"I heard you were in the hospital."
"Yeah I had a seizure."
"Is that better now? You on medication now?"
"Yep, haven't had anymore."
"So you epileptic?"
"Nope, I ended up with a growth that caused it"
"What type of growth"
"A diffuse astrocytoma"
"What is that"
"It's brain cancer"
"Oh...uh...well...I hope that turns out okay. I'll see you later"

Those were awkward enough conversations but the ones that were even worse were the ones were it was dropped off in the end of a normal conversation and turning it into a very surreal conversation. A friend prone to drama goes on for 10 minutes about the latest boy in her life and how he's doing this and that without missing a breath or a beat. As I have for a long time, I listen and try to empathize along the way saying "I'm sorry," "That's too bad" "What a jerk" etc. But then she throws the whole conversation for a loop when at the end of all the drama story she says "But that's nothing compared to your brain cancer." Months later I still don't know what the correct response would have been to that.

Another friend, a little inebriated, complains about something they thought I had done wrong while running the celebration tournament. She goes on for quite a while about how the format wasn't good for her team. After a few minutes of what can be kindly described as bitching, she tipsily walks away and says "Oh and I'm sorry you have brain cancer." At least she had walked away...

The scenario that was most common was that I would tell people and they would immediately seem depressed and I had the awkward responsibility of comforting them about my brain cancer. Obviously I appreciated immensely that they cared but this was a new role for me so I was still learning how to do it. I had been asking my running group for rides without much explanation when one of the girls came up to me and said
"I heard about your DWI accident."
"I didn't have an accident, I had a seizure"
(exchange giving her outs occurs but finally tell her I have brain cancer)
She looks at me and immediately breaks down crying in the middle of track warm ups where we are going up and down the track doing things like skipping, over and unders, running backwards etc. She puts her hands to her face, over her mouth and cries with more conviction than my wife had at this point while talking to me. Not knowing what else to do and being human, I reach out and hug her and she cries into my shoulders for a few moments while people are running up and down the track... Luckily this is during winter and its dark so a lot of people miss it. I feel horribly bad for making her feel this way especially since we've had less than a half dozen conversations.

During those type of moments I wonder if maybe I should have kept all of this to myself in order to not make people feel bad.

2 comments:

  1. it's like a freaking double whammy. or maybe a triple. first you have to deliver the bad news, then you have to comfort the people who are more focused on their own feelings about you than on how you're actually doing, and lastly, you're the guy who actually has brain cancer!!!

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  2. i suppose its wrong of me to have laughed here .. but in my defense ,it came out honestly all by itself .. yes that would have been tad ..awkward ..

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