An Open Letter to a Cancer Patient

The below letter is one that I wrote for someone upon learning of their diagnosis from a friend, and it was after writing this that I realized I really needed to get the website out there, because I wanted to share my jokes with all cancer patients, and to publish everyone else’s stories too!!

Here is where I should note for all my jokes:  I am not bitter or angry, as written words don’t have tone or inflection to them.  I am, perhaps, a little sarcastic, but all jokes about serious matters usually are for all of us.  Thank you.

Dear Cancer Patient (I wrote it for someone who was diagnosed with testicular cancer, is why I mention my type of cancer in the letter),

Well, this is a short (ok, it’s actually long, LOL) note of support from someone you haven’t even met, but can relate to your diagnosis.  You might say, “What can a 40 year old breast cancer survivor tell me that will help?!”  Well, I’m going to share what I think might help, you can laugh, ignore me, or realize that I am sharing in order to help you through your journey, it’s individual for all of us, but when we reach out to help the next guy through, it’s called “paybacks and karma”.  Ha ha ha.

First, you lost a body part, go ahead, have a rage fit or two (or more, peppered with a little primal screaming, ha ha), you’re entitled, after all it was a part of you before cancer messed it up.  Then, feel free to crack jokes about it, I have, as I believe laughing at something takes away it’s “power” of controlling us.  And, laughter really is the best medicine. (Scar tissue can feel like duct tape is taped to your skin, be itchy, feel numb, or even have weird electrical shock feelings for a long while after surgery, yippee!!)

Second, if you have a chemo port put in for it tell people you’re being assimilated into the Borg (Star Trek) . LOL.  Then, know that chemo feels like the flu, fatigue,  body aches and pains, and possibly the joy of no hair.  And I don’t recommend shaving it off first, because then you’ll just have little stubbly things all over the place, and that’s harder to clean up.  And at least for me when it all fell out my head felt itchy and tingly.  Also it doesn’t necessarily all fall out at once, you’ll look like the “Toy Story One” movie doll toy that has patches of hair missing, at this point is when you might shave the patches off to look even.  Avoid salads, bleu cheese, and other possibly e-coli or bacteria things, and people with colds or flu, as your body is not prepared to fight anything other than cancer right now.  And the shot after chemo, should you receive it too, called neulasta, to help boost your white blood cell count, feels like a horse kicked you (yay!) and then makes your bones ache to produce said blood cells. Oh, and if you are bald, and decide to wear a surgical mask to avoid germs, feel free to use my joke that you are “in the witness protection program”.  Ha ha ha.

Radiation, should you need it, I recommend a frozen bag of peas, with a paper towel between, on site for good 10 to 20 minutes after helps ease the sunburn feeling of it.  Radiation fatigue feels like you need to take a nap.  I found exercising as soon as I could after helped to push away the tiring feeling.  Exercising even during chemo (for me, about a week after “upload”, I felt alright again, I hope yours is sooner!) helped me feel like I was “stronger than cancer”, so good luck finding your mojo to exercise too!

So, that’s my tips on treatments, as I wish someone had told me what to expect rather than just “chemo/radiation sucks”.  Oh, if you have a shots and needle phobia, you’ll get over it quickly as we become human “pincushions” during treatment.  Ha ha ha.

Oh, the psych side is that people will say stupid things to you, because they don’t know how to deal with it.  You can be prepared to “let it go” or “discuss it” with them accordingly.  I had complete strangers to friends say these things.  (And stupid things people say one and two, as a “heads up”:
You’re being punished for something, or this is a blessing.  Both, in my opinion, are crap, it just “is what it is”, if you ask me.)
You will also find that close friends may distance themselves but distant friends will become closer.  All in how they can handle it.  Let people help you when you need it, I found that I thought I resented people helping me, but then ended up realizing that I actually resented having cancer rather than the people helping me. (And psych for me also meant relying on faith/religion/spirituality too, again individual preference.)

Oh, and my last opinion, (among others) on the word “survivor”, congratulations, you are one.  I think that survivor means you have survived cancer even beginning to grow in your body, not just that you have to wait till some stupid date 5 years from now after treatment is over, nope, you’re already a survivor, so welcome to the club.


Dara Insley  (Canswear)

Facebook here:!/pages/Canswear/179407948783299

Copyright 2011  (The Canswear website and commentary (noted as Canswear) is the intellectual property of Dara Insley.)


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