Friday, October 21, 2011

The Cancer Card

On my way to pick Bug up from daycare today, I stopped at Safeway to buy an anniversary card for Chris. There's no escaping Breast Cancer Awareness at Safeway, with their pink streamers and balloons and t-shirts everywhere. But today I didn't mind so much. I was in a pretty good mood. I'd had a meeting with my oncologist this morning, and he did a breast exam. "I don't feel anything," he said with a huge smile as he felt for my tumor.

But on my way out of the parking lot, I must have cut a woman off. She blared her horn at me, gesticulating madly. When she revved her engine to catch up to me, and then pulled up next to my car at a stoplight, I rolled down my window. Maybe she'd see my headscarf and let it go, I thought. But she rolled her window down and yelled, "You didn't have the right of way! You didn't even look!" I told her she must've been driving too fast, that I hadn't even seen her. And then she flipped me off and sped away.

So much for letting it go.

My eyes burned as tears welled up, ashamed at how defensive I'd gotten, how angry a fleeting encounter with a stranger could make me. I wish I hadn't turned the blame on her. I wish I'd apologized instead, made chemo brain the scapegoat for my blind spot. I wish I'd pulled the cancer card, told her that I'm a little preoccupied these days. Maybe she would have smiled instead of giving me the bird.

Maybe all this breast cancer awareness is affecting my mood more than I think. Can we just find a cure already?

1 comment:

  1. I think your reaction was natural, Jen, though it's kind-hearted to have regrets about not handling the situation differently. Maybe "pulling the cancer card" means cutting yourself some slack. Chances are, that woman felt no better after chasing you down, confronting you, and flipping you off. In fact, it's entirely possible that even if you HAD apologized, she would have given you the same response, and you'd still feel bad because it's hurtful and angering when a total stranger treats you cruelly. Beyond that, she may have gone home, calmed down, replayed the situation in her mind, and realized what she'd been too furious to notice previously: the headscarf.

    It's also possible that she goes through her entire life trying to make people pay for the wrongs they've committed against her, in which case she better hope she doesn't roll down her window to the wrong person. But I try to take comfort in the fact that most people can be reasonable, when you give them the opportunity to work through their emotions.

    So, please keep your chin up, and don't punish yourself for your moments of weakness. You have many people who can be strong for you, when you're feeling vulnerable. (Confrontational bitches in cars notwithstanding ;))