I don’t play the cancer card very often. It’s a conscious decision not to be viewed as less than healthy. Mostly, I save it for when I want my friend Jess to pick me up in her BMW with the passenger seat pre-heated.
But just because I’m not complaining doesn’t mean I want to listen to someone else’s problem, unless its from a very close friend. So yesterday, I was dragging the basset hound down the street, when I ran into a woman with whom I’ve had several conversations. She also has a dog, is my age, but apart from that, we have little else in common.
Often, I listen to people more than I’d like to, because Jed will plant himself in the middle of the sidewalk, for long periods of time. Moving him is like pulling a Sherman tank and I’m a sitting duck for grumblers.
So she asks me how I am. ‘Super Fantastic,’ I lie. In fact I wasn’t fine at all, having had a wildly frustrating day dealing with hospital politics and absent doctors. But thinking that I was on top of the world, she launched into her own woes. One of which was having thinning hair. She’d had a high fever and some of her hair had fallen out. I didn’t care. ‘Look,’ she said, taking off her hat to prove how bad it really was.
‘Shut the f*ck up,’ Inner Voice said. But my outer voice, without thinking, blurted out , ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m bald.’ Her face fell, slightly confused, but with a spark of understanding. I threw her a bone. ‘I just finished chemo. And I’m fine. But this is a wig.’ She put her hand on my arm and said in hushed tones, ‘Oh no...do you have c..?’
‘Had,’ I cut her off. And then I turned the conversation around, saying that her hair, which was a thousand times more abundant than mine, would grow back. She was busy scanning my face. ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘I can tell by your eyelashes. They’re thinner.’
No kidding. And this is exactly why I don’t talk about myself, because people look at you like a science experiment, or one of those puzzles at the back of People magazines, called, ‘What is Wrong With This Picture?’
Then she suggested that we have lunch some time. (I don’t think so). Thankfully Jed chose that moment to howl at a daschund, and the Sherman Tank turned into a Ferrari, and dragged me down the street.