Incognito? I think not.

I went to my son’s choir concert last night.  Because of where I am at with my treatment cycle, I had to wear a mask, and since my hair is getting a lot thinner, I just felt it was time to put on a hat.  Let me tell you, if you want to stand out in a crowd, try that outfit.  The little kids are the best – they just wide-eyed, open mouth stare at you – like you’re from another planet.  It’s actually funny if you’re in the right frame of mind. 🙂  Middle schoolers – they look at you weird & when you walk into the bathroom, you feel compelled to say, “Don’t worry, I’m not contagious.”  Adults are a little more discreet – a glance, and then usually a smile, or they’ll just look away.  Unfortunately in the past, when I saw people that were wearing masks in public places, my first thought was, “Oh brother, a germophobe!”  Yeah, God is using this to humble me.

I have to tell you that I did consider grabbing a sharpie and writing a big smilie face on the front of the mask though – just to make the best of it. 🙂  Unfortunately, my middle school-aged children were somehow not really keen on that idea.  I don’t think it would be bad – might make people laugh!  Not saying I won’t do it later… *insert evil laugh here!!!*

Cancer is a funny – read strange – disease.  There are so many people out there with cancer.  You pass them in the store, you see them as you’re driving, you may even be working with them, and yet a lot of the time, you have no idea.  Each person handles their cancer differently, and that’s ok.

Some are completely open about it (like me).  I feel that if I’m going to go through this, I might as well make the most of it & let other people know what all goes on.  Maybe it can be less intimidating for others if I do.  And I have to say (as you will read on) this is the view that I am growing into & this is my heart.

Some people downplay it.  I have to say I’ve been guilty of that – you want people not to look at you and say, “Oh, that poor girl!” but rather make people believe that you have a little handle on your sanity (even if you don’t).

There are those that LOVE to be the victim, and capitalize on the attention.  Ok, so at the beginning I think I can safely say that I had a bit of this.  Yes, I’m confessing.  But at the same time, wouldn’t you?  I mean, this is CANCER.  You know – the big “C”.  That disease that KILLS people!  Don’t I have a RIGHT to feel sorry for myself?  You bet I do!  (Editor’s note here: this is probably not the healthiest place to stay for too long.  Once in a while – ABSOLUTELY!!!)  But if you are finding yourself in this place for long periods of time, please let your doctor know and they can help you with this.  Support groups can be a GREAT place to find sympathetic ears, because if you do choose to park your little hiney in this place too long, it unfortunately WILL drive a lot of people away.

Some hide it, or deny it outright.  They continue at work taking unexplained “sick days”, their co-workers know something is going on, but no one has the nerve to ask, or they ask and are told, “Oh I’m fine.” Well, they’re fine alright, just a different definition of “FINE”:
Wow.  This whole blog went an entirely different direction than I intended, but I think that’s alright.  That’s part of how cancer works.  It takes you places that you didn’t plan to go.  And now to spin it back the way I was thinking would just “wreck” it.  So I guess what I’d like to say is, give a little grace when you come across people that don’t look quite like you expect.  There’s probably more going on than meets the eye.
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10 thoughts on “Incognito? I think not.

  1. Kristin: so true. I too know people who need to wear a mask when in public. It does look a little strange but I think that people do see them from time to time. I can relate to the not looking yourself part or looking different from most people. Breast cancer left me with my right arm swollen from the elbow down. I feel disfigured sometimes. I know people notice it and I don’t mind if they ask what happened, it is better if they do as then they know why it’s so swollen. Sometimes Jim says something like, she was bitten by a rattle snake or a black widow. Then I have to tell them the truth and it lightens the mood. It seems that cancer leaves a mark, but by telling my story to others I have saved lives because people have gotten checked by their doctor because of talking with me and found cancer early. So I keep that in mind when I look down at my hand and arm and start feeling sorry for myself because I used to have two small hands and now I don’t. You are doing the best you can with what you have been given and I think you are doing splendid.
    Thanks for your words,
    Sonja Bain

  2. You are amazing! Keep writing and keep being honest, Kristen! i’m so sorry you have to go through this, but I have to admit I love reading your blogs and hearing how you tackle different situations. I vote for that happy face on your mask! You can turn it upside down on a bad day, too! Most of us over 40 (and many under) understand why the hat and mask and maybe just don’t know what to say. I usually just smile and nod, hoping the person understands my heart is with them and I “get it”. Sonja, I never noticed your arm or hand and bet most don’t. Faces are what we look at and you cancer survivors have faces that express kindness and compassion. Keep up the good fight, Kristen and know there are many doing the battle in prayer for you!

  3. Kristin,
    You are an amazing wordsmith and have a similiar sense of humor to my friend Carol Schaudt. What you said about how people act about their cancer is so true. I think I told you Vern and I have been in a bible study with 6 other couples and I am the only wife who has not had breast cancer. I’ve seen all different reactions of disclosure or a complete desire for privacy. My friend Lucky said to me “you’d better get out of this group while you can!” Conincidently, she had the same thing happen to one of her arms as Sonya did. I bet she’d love to meet her someday.

    Hang in there. You are a blessing to many of us.

  4. Kristin, I wish I had your ability with words so I could say what your blog means to me…..I continually thank God for you and for your wonderful spirit and attitude and honesty and for the tremendous blessing that you are to me (and many others!). My love, thoughts and prayers are with you many times during the day and also during my awake times during the night! I, too, vote for the smiley face!

  5. Oh Kristin!!! I can so totally relate to every word you just said!! I have not read the rest of your story, though I def will now…and I’ll try to be in touch…maybe through fb…I’d love to hear more about your treatment, how you’re doing, etc, etc….as I am traveling a somewhat similar road as you right now. Take care and keep hanging in there my dear!

  6. I read quite a lot of your brother’s blog while he was doing his “Hike for Hope” and it so neat to read so many of these personal, nitty-gritty details. I truly feel it helps to unravel some of the mystery of the emotions. I lost my dear mom to a very rare form of cancer 5 years ago May 15th, and she was a silent sufferer. She would talk a little and then just clam up and say no more. I’m so glad you are getting it off your chest; I’m glad Ryan stepped out in courage, inspiration and strength; I can’t help but think it helps you and all in your sphere. Just remember, everything that is a trial is so worth it…(Romans 8:28)

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