I wore earrings that glowed and a skirt that looked like a silver Christmas tree ornament. “Wow, you never dress like that,” my husband said. “I like it.”
I didn’t tell him it might be my last chance to dress like a rockstar. It was New Year’s Eve. Earlier that day, a mammogram tech told me she knew where I could get “cheap chemo.” While my breast was being smashed, a shocking reality washed over me. Chemo? I must have cancer.
The next morning, Obamacare kicked in, and the health insurance my family had all our adult lives was rendered invalid. It was a consequence of the new nationwide policy change, and we were swept up in its collateral damage.
Over the next few weeks, while Gary and I scrambled to find lifesaving care, a few friends wanted to talk about politics, specifically about healthcare reform. I remember being on hold, listening to Muzak coming from my cellphone, our landline, and my husband’s cellphone. We covered our dining room table in scraps of paper with handwritten notes and phone numbers of people who ultimately weren’t able to help, and I felt powerless in a way I never have before or since.
During that time, people couldn’t wait to share opinions. “We finally have universal care,” I heard over and over, even while I sat in a hospital gown waiting for test results. My situation offered the perfect platform for strangers to advance their positions, and I quickly learned that my best option was to say nothing. Sometimes, I had to clench my teeth to keep from engaging.
This week, a wildfire rages in my community and threatens to burn my family’s home. If our house goes down, it will be the third one we’ve lost to fire in the past three years. And again, in the midst of a crisis, people want to talk about politics. While Gary and I pore over fire maps and agonize over neighbors whose homes are confirmed losses, some people insist on advancing a point of view.
“I know you don’t believe in climate change,” one person told me on the phone this morning, “but the reason your houses keep burning is that there’s a massive hole in the ozone layer.”
I haven’t used a plastic bag since the Reagan administration. I’ve banned drinking straws from my pantry. I live in a solar-powered house and own an organic, dry-farmed walnut orchard. Climate change is horrible, but I don’t want to talk about it now.
“We need to bring back logging,” another friend told me. This guy’s on the opposite end of the political spectrum, and he sent me photos to illustrate his point.
I like both of these friends, but here’s the deal: Now’s not the time.
Victims facing major loss are probably not in the space to hear political opinions, engage in debate, or defend opposing points of view. How many people have baited me into these conversations? Not many. But many have tried.
If your friend gets a breast cancer diagnosis, here’s my advice: Put a lasagna in the oven and run it over to her house. Take her kids to a movie. Drive her car through the wash. Offer to go to the post office.
She’s exhausted. She’s scared to death. And she’s worried that her kids are going to grow up without a mother. She doesn’t know how her husband’s going to find his car keys and wallet if she’s not there to remind him where he put them. And her laundry is starting to smell.
What she’s probably not in the mood to do is discuss the impact public policy has on other people. She might not have the energy to ponder philosophical ideas at this particular moment. Someday, when she’s well, you can buy her a glass of wine and wax eloquent about your opinions on health insurance, fire insurance, or the latest CNN or FOX or ABC news poll.
Until then, get a clue. Now’s not the time.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.