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What I Wanted to Tell the Woman With Cancer Buying Bananas at Wegmans


I signed up for the LIVESTRONG program at a local YMCA.

For those of you who don’t know about this, it is a free 12-week program for cancer survivors. It helps you get moving and gives you the support you need to get back (or in my case; get started!) on some exercise in your life.

For those that are survivors or know survivors — please pass on my PSA. Free!
Call your local YMCA.

You’re welcome.

So yeah, signed up to get my ass moving because my bones and joints ache so much from this God-forsaken cancer pill that even I am tired of hearing myself complain about it.

I’m tired of the immediate fog I go into after taking said God-forsaken cancer pill.

I’m also tired of thinking that my breasts look uneven when I look in the mirror
(covered in a bra and T-shirt, I’m pretty sure no one is staring to see if I’m even).
Or maybe they are and in that case if you would like I can pass on the number of amazing plastic camp alum surgeon.

I’m tired of my itchy scars.

But then…

A woman walked by me in Wegmans the other day with a scarf on her head. Her face was worn and her eyebrows were gone. (Losing your eyebrows and lashes is really the effin’ worst, just so you know.)

I smiled at her warmly across the bananas but I really wanted to reach out and hug her.

I’m sure she was thinking, “Here’s a woman giving me the sympathy smile” (because I hated the sympathy smile).

But I wasn’t.

I was warmly smiling because I wanted to tell her I’m so sorry that cancer has touched her like it touched me.

And I can see the last thing you want to be doing is buying bananas.

But you got yourself up to the market maybe because you know you had to move on with your day and you pray to God you don’t run into anyone you know because you don’t want them asking how you are.

Because “How are you?” during cancer is a really ridiculous question because you know, you have cancer, so how am I? I suck. But everyone means well with the “how are you” question because they truly want to know, they just don’t know what to say. Even I ask how are you (three seconds later kicking myself — it just rolls off the tongue.) So give the “how are you” person a pass and be thankful she’s addressing the elephant in the room as opposed to pretending you really are OK.

That’s the thing.
Warm smile.
How are you.
Rotisserie chicken dinners for the family.

There is no right and there is no wrong.

The family, the friends of the cancer patient — no one knows what to do. No one knows how to help.

I will tell you what I learned. What worked for me.

Take the cue…
Take the cue that they may not want a lunch date or any kind of date. But offer one up for when they are ready.
They may not want to talk on the phone.
They may not want to see a soul.

And let them feel that way.
At some point, they will want to.

What we will always take?

A quick hug.
A short text.
A loving email.
Warm fuzzy socks.
Chocolate. (OK, maybe that’s just me.)

The rest?
Just listen.

At some point we want to eat lunch.
And may want the lunch date.

Just not yet.

Not while we are still barely getting our asses out of the house for bananas.

This story originally appeared on Eat The Frosting First.

Getty photo by DragonImages