What does your face look like when you hear someone is sick? Do you know? I know exactly what it looks like because over the past months I have witnessed your looks. Y’all need to practice your poker faces and that includes doctors. People like me can read you like an open book and it’s not always joyful. I’ve decided to help you out. I’m dealing you in on what to say when someone you know has a serious illness.
I am very open about what happened to me. I told over 500 of my closest friends on social media. They are witnessing my healing journey. So, imagine my surprise when I found out there were folks gossiping about me. Yes, I know who you are. When you are standing in a small group whispering and suddenly stop talking and look down when you see me, I know what’s going on. For Pete’s sake work on your poker face. What you think of me isn’t my business.
Do you remember the song You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore? It’s become my theme song because cancer does not own me. And as of right now I am cancer free. I believe with all of my heart and soul that cancer has vacated my God Pod. You don’t have to believe me but please don’t give the doubting Thomas look. Honestly, what do you know?
I’ve walked into social gathering’s or a doctor’s office and there is that one person that has the look of utter surprise. Their mouth literally flies open. To cover their shock, they usually hug me and tell me they didn’t expect to see me. Even in the era of Covid-19 and mask, I can still read your energy. When you look surprised it’s as if you had no faith in me or my healing journey. You could work on your poker face but I would prefer if you swapped surprise with joy. Be joyful to see me. I know I’m joyful to see you.
When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or had a heart attack, or have Parkinson’s or any other illness your body goes through the ringer. There were days I looked in the mirror and wondered if that was truly my reflection. Radiation was really hard. I looked like a pale monk with my ring of hair. My moon face and weight gain from steroids didn’t help. I had been doing the Tango of death. So, when folks put on their best poker face and told me I looked good, I knew it was a lie. For me it just made things worse. I wanted people to see me, to see my struggle, to acknowledge what I was going through, how hard I was working.
Please understand that everyone is different. If you aren’t sure what to say to a cancer patient who’s been doing the Tango of death, ask them how they feel. And then BE a mirror. This is actually a useful coaching tool. If someone is happy with the way they look, mirror that. If they think that look like crap, mirror that. Above all else, reflect and validate. Yes, it might be a dark space, but the dark is needed just as much as the light. You can’t have one without the other.
In the beginning I had friends that faded away. Later when they saw that I was indeed gonna live for a while they scampered back into my like. They’d slap on their best poker face and tell me they stayed away because they didn’t know what to say. Truly this says more about them than me but if you don’t know what to say here are some ideas.
You get the idea. You just show up. And if you listen to your heart you will know exactly what to say and do. Truth is, I had friends who faded away because they just didn’t want to deal with it and that’s okay. It really is because my friend pool exploded. I had good friends who stuck by me. And people I didn’t know very well became some of my best friends. One morning I shared on Facebook that ball-caps and wigs were itchy and made my scar hot and irritated. Within the week I started receiving soft hats, bandanas, and Boho’s. My friends listened and acted! There gifts of kindness were constant and when I think about it my soul fills with gratitude.
You meet a new person, maybe they are a friend of a friends or a new doctor or the lady in the Kroger line. As you start talking, they find out about your cancer diagnosis. They look down and nod in sadness and that’s kinda okay. There is no poker face on this one. It’s when they look up and their face conveys a pity that makes me cringe. Now, I know there are some people in the world who use their illness as energetic currency. But I’m just not wired that way. I’m focusing on what’s going right.
Some would say I’ve been dealt a bad hand. But that’s not my truth. It may be hard to believe but I’m actually grateful for this experience. I’ve learning how to go deep into healing, Spirituality and gratitude. For the first time in my life I feel whole. That’s an amazing gift. I think I’m playing the hand I’ve been dealt pretty darn well. I understand the end game. The goal is to die a good death. Thing is, I know that? Do you?