Making Fun of Dying
I'm Holly, a 31-yr-old BRCA2+ stage IV triple negative breast cancer survivor/thriver since stage IV breastie patients are still somehow considered incurable (whatever). I've been cancer free since May 2020, even though I am now part cyborg, particularly in the breast implant area. I always thought I'd probably be murdered one day, I just had no idea the call was coming from inside the house. I'm mostly really tired and can't wait for the day everyone stops touching my body/boobs, which my oncologist says will be never. Sigh.
I was 28 when I got diagnosed with stage IV triple negative breast cancer, which if you didn't know, is the most aggressive kind, can't be controlled by hormones, and has very limited treatment options. Basically, everyone was pretty sure I was going to die. And when people think you're dying, everyone looks at you with "Dying Face." You know, like you're a pathetic little kicked puppy. Everyone pities you. Everyone likes to tell you to be positive, and God will see you through, and blah blah blah.
Honestly, I was so exhausted from surgery, chemo, everything that at that point, I didn't even really care if I was going to die. At least if I died, I wouldn't have to do this anymore and everyone would shut the fuck up.
I was so sick of it being this big taboo, with all of my friends and family tiptoeing around me, like "Oooh, she's so fragile, let's talk to her like she's already on her deathbed." So I started making fun of dying. I brought it up all the time. I love shock value humor, so it really just vibed well with my personality anyway.
If my friends didn't want to go out to brunch, I'd tell them, "Oh OK, no big deal. I'm just about to die of cancer, but don't worry, I'm sure you'll feel fine about this once I'm gone."
If my family wanted to discuss politics or something else exhausting that I had no interest in arguing with them about I'd say, "Hey, I'm dying, don't stress me out, the cancer is growing back!" It shut them up real quick.
If one of my doctors made a sad face when reading my chart, I'd tell them to "lighten up, I'm not even dead yet!" At my 29th birthday party, everyone felt sorry for me because I was bald and sick and so I started trying to plan my funeral with them (open bar is ESSENTIAL), which horrified everyone.
And despite me being probably the worst person ever, especially at the infusion center where I'd crack horrible, morbid jokes the entire time, it really did help. Everyone got so sick of me and what they began referring to as "the cancer card." Any time I wanted special treatment, I'd bring up my imminent demise and would be greeted with eye rolls.
My closest friends, instead of tearing up any time someone mentioned my illness, would get annoyed and be like "yeah whatever, you're dying, we know." That is exactly how I preferred to be treated. I think being open about death instead of trying to hide away from it made all the difference. Soon everyone was also making morbid death jokes to me, buying me hilarious cancer merchandise (like a shirt that says "NOT DEAD YET" that I prefer to wear to surgery), and honestly, they just got used to my new reality. I feel like talking about death is the same as talking about Voldemort - the more you avoid talking about it, the bigger and scarier it gets. I desensitized everyone around me by being a complete asshole about it.
Thanks to some awesome doctors, I lived. I've been cancer free for 1.5 years thanks to Keytruda, chemo, radiation, surgery. And I still pull the cancer card any chance I get - I mean, hey, it's our ONE perk!
I'm still a cancer patient, still get infusions to keep me stable, still at risk of eventually dying of cancer (not real great recurrence statistics at stage IV, let me tell you), so if I want to go to happy hour and my friends don't feel like it, you bet I'm going to casually remind them that I hope they remember this day once I'm gone. They're so over me pulling this, they don't even flinch anymore, but hey, that's the way I like it.