Getting the Most Benefit Out of Being A Cancer Patient

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • There’s a little joke among breast cancer insiders–-those of us walking around with the ticking time bomb inside–-that’s called “playing the cancer card.” It’s a sometimes legitimate, sometimes kind of sneaky way to wring every benefit you possibly can out of the cancer experience. Oh sure, there’re the big picture benefits: cancer gives you a new appreciation for life, all that stuff. I’m talking about the down and dirty, day-to-day aggravations, the ones we all deal with, cancer or no cancer. You’ve heard the expression “Play the cards you’re dealt,” right? Here’s your chance to take some crummy cards and have a little fun with them.
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    1. When you’re going through chemo and lose your hair, and don’t choose to wear a wig full-time, flaunt your baldness just enough to get noticed when you want to. People seeing your bald head-–or enough of it to realize you’re going through some serious health stuff–-will treat you very nicely. They’ll hold the door for you, let you go ahead of them in the grocery line, wait politely while you cross the street against the light… stuff like that. If it helps you, go for it! Whoever’s being nice doesn’t mind; believe me, they’re standing there thinking, “God, I’m glad that’s not me.”

    2. When you absentmindedly roll through that stop sign, and the flashing blue light appears in your rearview mirror, tell the policeman you have chemo-brain. “I’m SO sorry, officer, I’m dealing with cancer side effects that make me so forgetful sometimes…” This is totally NOT an excuse for breaking the law, but don’t we all ask forgiveness when caught in a minor traffic violation? The cancer card is a pretty good excuse.

    3. Go to the potluck dinner empty-handed. Yup, that’s right. Bring nothing at all, not even a bottle of Hawaiian Punch. People will assume you were too weak or too sick to make anything. Don’t tell them you forgot and then didn’t leave yourself enough time even to stop by the store for a bag of Oreos.

    4. Use the handicapped stall in the public bathroom. Now, this one is legitimate, in my book. Sometimes you’re SO sore and aching, from treatment or drugs, that it’s actually painful to try to maneuver around in a tiny little stall. Clearly, you don’t shove yourself in front of a truly handicapped person; but if no one else is using it, why not?

    5. This one is legitimate, too; just underutilized, in my experience. Take advantage of freebies at the hospital. Check with social services, and see if there’s free massage, Reiki, or anything else available to cancer patients. Many massage therapists or other healing practitioners donate their services; you just have to take the time to find out when and where they’re offered.

    6. Also at the hospital, go ahead, use those parking spaces right by the door reserved for cancer patients. You’ve earned it.

    7. And ask for a special parking space at work. Hey, someone gets those spaces close to the door every day–-why not you? In reality, you may need it, when you’re feeling REALLY bad. On days you feel good–-enjoy it anyway.

  • 8. Hit up your friends for donations to Relay for Life, Race for the Cure, or whatever local cancer fund-raising effort you’re involved with. They may sigh and roll their eyes when you try to sell them yet another candy bar for your kid’s class trip, but they’ll never say a word about donating to cancer research. Ask not for whom the bell tolls…  
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    9. Take a break from housework and yardwork. Tell the group from church offering their services that yes, you’d love for someone to come mow the lawn, and while they’re at it, how about fixing that latch on the gate that’s been broken for 6 months, too?

    10. Be a little bit wacky. A woman I know, when she’d lost her hair, had a temporary tattoo of a dragon drawn atop her head. She wore a hat at work, but when she was feeling particularly aggravated with a co-worker, she’d tear off her hat, bow her head, and roar. She said it never failed to break the tension, and any anger turned into laughter.

    Go ahead, confession is good for the soul–-have YOU played the cancer card? Write a comment and let us know how.
Published On: May 22, 2007