Thursday, November 22, 2007

On the Bus

I was on the bus yesterday, going home after massage therapy. I take the bus a lot now, to go to and from all my appointments along Broadway, which is one of the main drags in Vancouver. There are two buses that I could take: the 9 or the 99. The 9 is like the everyday people bus--folks look a little more sullen and don't smell as good. The 99 is the express bus that goes to UBC, so it's full of university students. Most of the time, I take the 9 because I can't stand the chatter of students, even though the 9 takes longer than the 99. But yesterday, I caught the 99 because it was the first bus that pulled up.

The bus was packed, but I was able to take a seat when a bunch of people got off at Granville. There were two women sitting across from me, bitching about their professors. I gathered that they were grad students from the way they were talking about theory and such. One of the girls was complaining about some criticism her professor made of her performance in class, and she began her sentence with "I appreciate what he's saying, but...." Which got me thinking about euphemisms in academia. Basically, when someone says they appreciate what you're saying, what they mean is that they think you're full of shit, which is also what they're saying when they state, "That's interesting." When they say, "That's interesting," they really think what you're saying is completely idiotic. Now when someone says, "I find that fascinating," what that means is that they're not sure if you are full of shit or not, but they think what they're saying might be full of shit too, so they will investigate the comment to decide on the exact content of BS later.

What the fuck does this have to do with my cancer? I don't know. I just wanted to sound pretentious.

But really, I wouldn't have been thinking about this if I didn't have cancer, because if I didn't have cancer, I wouldn't have been on that bus going home from massage therapy, which helps get rid of some of the pains of cancer.

The other meandering thought that I had while on the bus: there was a woman standing in front of me as I was sitting down. She was about 20 years older than me, or so she appeared. My first thought was, "I should let her sit down because that's the polite thing to do for older people." Then I thought, "Screw that. I have cancer, and she's only about 55 or whatever anyway." Just as I was about to whip off my hat to demonstrate the level of my sickness, I noticed that she was wearing a wig. I can spot fake hair a mile away now. Then I thought, "Shit, she probably has cancer too." But I sat there anyway.

It got me thinking about the hierarchy of illness, especially when it comes to cancer. The day before, I was at the acupuncturist, and there were two other women in the room with me. My acupuncturist said, "This is Blahblah...She's got a rare form of cancer. So rare that only three people in Canada have been diagnosed with it--and I'm treating two of them!" He beamed. The woman just sighed. The first words out of my mouth were, "Wow." But then I thought, What a dumb thing to say. Wow, like impressive? Or wow, like unbelievable? Either way, my gut reaction was that I felt icky for saying "Wow." But yeah, I've noticed how people like to one-up everyone else with cancer stories. Makes me feel weird.

Like when people say to me, "My sister had cancer, and it was awful for her, but she didn't complain at all." Like, wow, good for her, she's such a fucking hero. What's with the heroics of not saying anything when you feel like you're going to die? It's like when women, or their husbands, brag that they didn't have an epidural or scream when they were pushing a melon-head out of their vaginas. Cuz you know--it makes me feel better to bitch and moan and cry and wail when my body feels like it's being ripped open or aching with every little breath. Being silent is only an option for when I'm really dead.

I guess that's the stigma of cancer. Not supposed to talk about pain and death and dying. But really, that's what's going on inside the head sometimes. I myself find that really interesting. Fascinating.

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