“Wow! You Look Great!”

I went to lunch with some friends who haven’t seen me in several years. In fact, I probably haven’t seen some of them in four or even five years. We all did agility with our dogs together back before I was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t quit doing agility when I got my diagnosis, but I did cut out the number of venues I supported. In doing so, I quit seeing many of my acquaintances.

When you don’t look sick

Naturally, the first thing everyone said was, “Wow! How are you doing? You look GREAT!” I guess they expected me to be frail and sickly looking after fighting lung cancer for over 5-1/2 years. I know it bothers some people with cancer when others say something about them looking really good, but it doesn’t bother me. I am actually delighted that I at least look healthy.

Sometimes I wonder if the fact that I look healthy means that people think the cancer is gone? I can certainly understand it if it does. Because, truthfully, if it wasn’t for those quarterly scans I get that confirm there is lung cancer, I might convince myself that I am not sick.

Reminding myself to stay positive

But always, at least in the back of my mind, I remember that I need to enjoy today because just like the initial diagnosis turned my life upside down, the cancer that lurks inside of me is just waiting for a time to re-emerge. Way too many of my friends who are long-time survivors are back in treatment, facing chemotherapy and all that it brings (nausea, fatigue, weakness … ugh!). Recently, I have seen Facebook posts bidding goodbye to too many friends who had survived long, long past anyone’s expectations – 10, 15, 20 years past diagnosis.

From the outside looking in

I don’t think friends who are not a part of this cancer world realize what we live with every day. Yes, if we are fortunate, we look and feel great right now. But, I think it never leaves our minds that all of that can change in a moment. I’m not a worrier so I don’t dwell on what the future holds by any means, but the knowledge is still there that no matter how good I look and feel, I am actually not healthy at all.

I think that’s what frustrates me when I start asking for donations or for friends to join me on fundraising walks. For the most part, they don’t. And, I think part of the reason why is because they think I have beat this monster. When I asked for support right after diagnosis, they all gave and a lot agreed to walk with me. Now, they “like” my request for support that I put on Facebook and go on about their business. On the rarest of occasions, someone might say, “Oh, I wish I could join you on the walk, but I have other commitments,” but usually, they say – and do – nothing at all.

“I am very lucky”

So, I can tell them about still being in treatment and that I have not beat cancer, but their eyes tell them otherwise. And, what are you going to believe, your eyes or what someone tells you?

For now, I am going to celebrate the fact that my looks deceive my reality. And, remember that I need to appreciate the fact that I feel good enough that few remember I am still in a battle for my life. And, when someone tells me how good I look, I am going to smile broadly, and say, “Thank you!! I am very lucky.”

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