Don’t Look at Me Like That

I have noticed, ever since the cancer began colonizing other territories in my body and the M-word became affixed to my C-word, that I am sometimes treated just a little bit differently than before.  It’s subtle — like an almost imperceptible shift in barometric pressure — but it’s definitely not my imagination.  Of course people don’t actually gasp or recoil, but sometimes they get all somber and earnest, imploring me to stay as positive as possible and to believe in miracles. Wouldn’t that make you feel, I don’t know, a little weird?  A little paranoid maybe?

This doesn’t just happen with the insensitive or uninitiated. I get bumped to the front of the line for visits to the cancer shrink at the breast clinic, which is great, but I have to wonder why I’m being treated like cancer royalty all of a sudden. 

And there are other, more alienating experiences: I was being screened for a breast cancer support group for mothers of young children and it turns out I can’t be included because of the metastasis.  As they very cautiously explained, none of the other mothers have metastatic disease and group dynamics can be “delicate.”  In other words… what? My presence might freak others out because they’ll project my presumably horrible fate onto their own experience?  Or I might jump up and tell people that they don’t know from scary? Really, what??  I do understand that it is always better to have a population of people with similar experiences in these kinds of groups.  But still, it made me feel like I had unwittingly morphed into a different species entirely.    

These things, subtle though they may be, all contribute to the feeling that something (besides the cancer) has changed or shifted since my disease metastasized. Like I’m becoming faintly translucent in bright light, or something. And I don’t like it, not one bit. 

All cancer is crap, and the sneaky, shape-shifting, nomadic nature of metastatic disease makes it extra crappy.  But even though my cancer hasn’t exactly been responding well to treatment so far, I know I’m going to beat it.  They say it is “not curable,” only treatable, to which I say, bollocks.  Of course it’s curable.  They are coming up with newer and cooler ways in which to smash metastatic disease until it’s finally crushed, once and for all, like a nasty and unworthy insect under the 4-inch heel of my cancer-defying awesomeness.

However, until that happy comic-book ending comes to pass (and it will) I have to live with metastatic breast cancer. I know I have a serious form of cancer and that, because it’s on the move, I have to fight it constantly and indefinitely. I accept that I sometimes need help with things I used to be able to manage myself. I freely admit that I get really scared sometimes (mostly at night) and I have to chase the boogeyman away and regroup.  These things are all true. I’m not in denial.

But I want to strike a deal with the world at large:  Please don’t stop with all the help and prayers and good thoughts and love and certainly not with the soup. Please keep encouraging me and supporting me and telling me I’m courageous, because it actually helps me to be courageous. And please, don’t look at me like I’m going anywhere anytime soon.  Even if you think I’m delusional (I’m not) and I’m not going to live (you’re wrong) I ask that you suck it up and fake your way through the most convincingly positive attitude you can muster. Use the Stanislavsky method. Whatever.  Just don’t let me catch you looking at me like it’s only a matter of time, because if I’m supposed to believe that I can get through this (and I do) it helps if everyone around me believes it too.  Or at least acts like they believe it.

Besides, for whom isn’t it only a matter of time?


Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

15 responses to “Don’t Look at Me Like That

  1. Laura

    Leanne, I am sorry people are being jerky and insensitive. That really pisses me off because really, it’s the last thing you need. I read your blog faithfully and I want you to know that I believe in you, I believe in you believing in yourself, I believe you are a fighter and that you’ve got a long road ahead of you. We all do. Some roads are just curvier and loopier than others, some with thorn bushes every which way. . .you get the picture.

    Be strong. Stay strong. Over the wire, I am sending you all sorts of yummy chicken-soup vibes and lots of high fives as well as wishing for you to experience moments of peace and delight.

    Hang in there.

  2. angela

    You are absolutely right, no-one is given any guarantees of immortality. Just because you haven’t been living and fighting with cancer doesn’t mean that you have a guaranteed life expectancy. Mortality is a fact and not an option for all us. I know how hard this round two of treatment is for you. I know it is so scary but you will get through this. Why don’t you start your own support group and to get in you have to be gutsy, witty, gorgeous and completely fabulous. Hugs from angela

  3. Gwen

    You are doing everything right, Leanne. In fighting this horrible disease a positive mental attitude is key, and so is an ability to tell people what you want and need. You do this admirably. I follow your Blog faithfully, and though I am physically a long way away from you, mentally and emotionally I am with you every step of the way. I am sending you non-stop positive vibes. Can you feel them winging towards you through cyber-space?

  4. Keri-Lyn

    Hear, hear, Leanne…among us, who isn’t cognizant of the fate that befalls all?
    Keep your marvelous attitude, and your exceptional taste in hatwear (saw the Walk pics) going at a rate of lightning speed!

  5. Katie

    Leanne – you ARE courageous. There’s no doubt about that. And anyone who has seen your photos from the Walk can also tell that you are both strong & stylish 🙂

  6. Anita

    When my mum was sick, we sought help from a woman who had been diagnosed with a very advanced case of liver cancer. Her doctors had given up on her and she’d been told to make herself comfortable. We’d only read about her on the Internet (she had started a support group we wanted to join) and to be honet, considering her diagnosis, we weren’t even sure she’d still be around.

    Needless to say, when we first tried calling her, we couldn’t get in touch with her.

    Because she was on vacation in Hawaii.

    Doctors know what they know until they know something different. Sometimes they’re right (my mother), sometimes they have their heads up their asses (support group lady/women are crazy because of wandering uteruses/here, some cocaine should make that allll better!). What’s important is that you believe in yourself, and your family, and your future. That’s all any of us has, anyway, right?

    So I won’t stop the good thought and prayers and encouragement. And I just made a big pot of soup, so if you like chicken vegetable, I’m seeing Sharyn on Monday and I’ll give her some for you ❤

  7. jo

    Bravo…Leanne you could easily walk down any street in this city or any other for that matter and all that anyone would see is your resplendent beauty and attitude. The honks and the whistles will blare and it won’t be because your sporting a sign that says “honk if you hate cancer”. The cacophony of sounds will be for the awe of you….and it will continue even when your an old gal and outlive us all…and maybe then the thoughts of how you see people looking at you will hopefully fade from memory and mean something completely different.
    Santé jo

  8. Gemini Girl

    Hey Leanne,

    Loved your post. I’ve been kind’ve mired down in some life changes of my own and haven’t been on line or writing. Glad I checked in!

    God! You can tell who knows and who doesn’t within a second don’t you?! You can tell who accepts you just as you are and who just isn’t too sure what the right thing to say is. Granted, I can empathize with the latter. Since some days I didn’t, and don’t, know what to say to myself!

    Night time was always the worst for me. That’s when I wrote. The writing about my fear and anxiety and how shitty I often felt, physically, helped me to sleep.

    I know the getting bumped to the front of the line business can be a little creepy, but you know what? Just take it as a perk. Most of the time when I went to the Cancer Care Clinic it was a “hurry up and wait” experience. I liked Booth 6 where “us cancer patients” and those waiting for organ donations got fast tracked for our blood work.

    The support group thing, is a little odd though. Anyone of the women in the group could find her chronic illness (that’s what cancer is) had changed it’s staging. Better to have someone in the group who can share her emotions, feelings and experience eloquently and clearly than go along in denial.

    I got really pissed off one day in a focus group for cancer survivors. We had to go around the group and introduce ourselves, share what our experience had been and all the blah blah blah stuff. I got to go first. I shared my stuff and when sharing what my greatest fear was, expressed my great fear that my then 6 year old daughter might not remember me. (I was the youngest person in the room). The woman sitting to my left who was the final person to speak, said “I’m afraid my grandchildren won’t remember me!” Fair enough, understandable she’d feel that way, but I wondered where her imagination was. The look on the other participants faces appeared to mirror my emotions.

    Don’t know what made me share that memory, it just came to me when I was reading your post.

    You ARE courageous!! You are coping with this illness/experience so well, even when you probably feel you are a mess.

    And, it’s not your cancer! It’s cancer. You didn’t invite it into your life. You don’t own it! You don’t want it!

    And the people and articles who tell you or me or whoever to be positive! Eff them!!! Let yourself feel whatever emotion is present, let your body and brain express themselves. I found a great sense of freedom in allowing myself to be in touch with my emotions.

    Your articulate writing, your sense of humor, your joy in life and living motivate me. I hope to be in T.O. one day and have the opportunity to hang out in Chapters drinking a Starbucks Chai Latte with you. I think meeting you would be fun.

    Take care of yourself, ask the funny lookers if you have jam on your face and enthusiastically line jump at the cancer shrinks’


  9. shannon

    Hi Leanne
    Your pal Shannon here. I read your blog from time to time, and I just want you to know that you are often in my thoughts. I am sending you lots of love and positive vibes. I promise to not look at you funny when i see you next 😉
    You are going to live. You are not delusional. You are getting through this- amazingly!
    Big hugs brave girl

  10. Lisa Dunn

    I cannot believe what you wrote about the “screening” for the support group. Who needs support more than young mothers with metastatic breast cancer? So what happens if you are in the group and your cancer changes stages? Do you kicked out?

    You have the support of all of your family, friends, and all of us who read your blog and admire your courage. And you will survive because of that. I agree with what you said about all of the new drugs/therapies that are being developed. I have read some great articles about new treatments being developed and they truly give me hope for the future. We have a lot to live for.

  11. Jane

    My attitude is… this damned cancer had it’s chance to take me out. Unfortunately for the dragon, I WON! 😀 The cancer had it’s chance and my body said “looooser”. I’m too freakin’ strong and tough to take out that easily!

    We are of the same mind, Leanne. Blow the cancer out your third eye!!!

  12. tricia

    If I ever bumped into you on the street what you would see in my eyes would be a fondness for the scrappy young girl that I once knew. Admiration for the warrior you have become and pride for the lovely women you are.
    Think of you often.

  13. leanne coppen

    Have I ever had the best time reading these comments as they came in over the last several days! You guys made my day, day after day.
    (Angela I think we may already have that support group you describe going on right here.)
    Thanks all you “gutsy witty gorgeous completely fabulous” people.

  14. Aunty Carol

    I’m sure there has never been a doubt in anyone’s mind who knows you that you won’t beat this.

    You are an inspiration to me and when I have down days, I just think of you (what would Leanne do)and I kick myself in the ass and get moving again.

    You are much loved and I look forward to drinking champagne with you on my 65th (and on your 65th too).


  15. Carole

    Your Sept 24th article is ‘right on’.
    I have had multiple cancer diagnoses. In 1996 I was told to enjoy the next 6 months as that was all the oncologist could ‘guarantee’. Well, I am writing to you nowin 2009 and consider myslef a healthy woman living with cancer!
    We are not alone; there are many who have defied the odds and the experts!

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