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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Act of the Acquaintance

If there's one thing I've learned through this journey is that it can be awkward to have run-ins with people in your life who are "acquaintances". These are the people who know some simple facts about your life--where you work, where in the city you live, who you date, etc., but you're not close friends so they don't know the personal dealings of your day to day life. You see them at events and parties every few months, catch up, and then don't see them again for a while. You're friendly and happy to see them but they're not necessarily your "friend". Here in New York I feel like I have a lot of these "acquaintances" because the social circles are so large, its impossible to get close enough to everyone to really call them a "friend". As a result, when I'm in mixed company of both friends and acquaintances recently I've found it hard to answer the question, "How's life, how are you?", from a person I haven't seen in a while who has no idea of the major changes taken place in my life. It was easier in the beginning of this journey, I would normally say, "Life is good, planning a wedding, etc.", but as I've dealt with setbacks, I feel like a liar saying life is so good, yet am I really going to open up about my cancer diagnosis at a dinner party to someone I see just a few times a year?? It's a strange dance to perform. I want to say everything is all good with my life, even though it's not and often I'm not in the right setting to really explain what's going on.

Last night I went to a birthday party where I saw a lot of people that I haven't seen in a while and it was good to catch up, but the inevitable question, "How have you been? How are you?" hung in the air for me. Several people commented on how much weight I had lost and it's a comment 2 years ago that I would have loved and taken as a compliment but considering how I got here, I feel awkward acknowledging it. I realized later I could blame my weight loss on a wedding diet, which ironically I would totally be on if I never had been diagnosed with cancer, striving to reach the weight where I am now. But I feel odd celebrating my figure when I got it in such an undesirable way.

And then I never know how much people know. I've been very private about my situation from the beginning (yes, even though I have a blog!). I suppose it partly comes from the shame of feeling that somehow I went wrong in life. I did something bad or wrong to deserve cancer. I know that Hodgkin's isn't the kind of cancer you get because you did something "wrong" (i.e., didn't exercise, smoke, eat bad), but it doesn't stop me from feeling like somehow, someway I brought this on myself. So I've been ashamed to tell people that I have cancer, that I was an unlucky person to get an awful disease, I almost feel like I got an STD or something, a shameful disease that I don't want anyone to know about. As a result, not everyone at my job knows, there's a fine line between who knows and who doesn't. All of my close friends know, but only some acquaintances know and sometimes I can't be sure if one friend has told another. A few times last night, I saw people who said it was really good to see me, and then I became paranoid that they knew what was going on because they had been told by someone or they just were honestly really happy to see me! Such a strange situation. I had hoped to come out of this journey with only a few people knowing, but as my journey has gotten longer, the circle of those who know has grown and that's not a bad thing because I need all the positive energy and prayers I can get, it just makes it strange when you're at a party and someone asks, "How are you?". So I can't wait for the day when I can honestly say, "Life is good, can't complain!"

4 comments:

  1. Dear Morgan,

    I am a friend of your mommies and had dinner the other night with her ... that's when she shared your blog with me. My husband, Rick, had a T-cell Lymphoma and went through ICE and had a stem cell transplant. I'm the Catholic who gave your mom the holy water! You my dear, beautiful, strong, resourceful child are a treasure. You are a blessing. You are under the protective loving arms of our Jesus. When all this is said and done you will share your story with others struggling and they will be blessed! I look forward to meeting you and Ross. My mother says prayers are "liquid tears". Many prayers are being said for you. "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. Stay strong, be brave. Merry Christmas and Here's to no cancer in 2011!

    Love,
    Gay Madden

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  2. Dear Morgan:

    I know exactly how you feel about this -- having been through this process once with NHL and again this past summer with breast cancer. So, some practical advice: In my experience, the "acquaintance" question, "How's life?" is just an opening gambit, and they'd usually prefer a short answer from you and the reciprocal question because what they really want is a chance to tell you all about themselves and what they're doing. So I usually just say "so far, so good, and how about you?" and they're off to the races with tales of their own accomplishments. If the acquaintance is truly concerned, that's their opportunity to indicate it, and they will. But in most cases, the casual inquiry really masks a desire to tell you their story, and isn't something you should even give a second thought to.

    Some less practical advice: Please, please remove the word "shame" from your vocabulary. You're a survivor; a victor; a courageous warrior... one day you will tell your story to others traveling a similar path to give them hope and strength. Yours will be the success story they look to for their own courage. Replace that awful word with "pride" and don't be shy about sharing your story even now... you'll be surprised how much support you'll find from acquaintances, friends of friends, and even strangers. Take it all; one day you'll return it with interest.

    Best wishes for 2011 -- may it lead you out of this chapter and into a new, joyous one with Ross. All the best, love and support,

    Nancy

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  3. -Gay, thank you sooo much for being there for my mom during this tough time. She has appreciated it so much!! And thank you for the holy water! I still have it and put it on my chest where those pesky cancer cells are and let it do it's work!

    -Nancy, I had no idea you dealt with breast cancer after having to deal with NHL, you are the ultimate survivor, thank you so much or your kind words!!! They mean so much to me.

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  4. Morgan,

    I admire your honesty. Thank you for sharing.
    Sending you postive vibes! :)

    All the best,
    Sherry

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