Cancer Talk #26: Frequently Asked Questions

How are you?

A simple question to which I always have trouble in answering. The answer is never simple and depends on my condition: in between chemo, after steroids, before seeing my doctor and so on.

My usual answer: “I’m good.”

What I really want to say: “I don’t know. The other day I felt sick the whole day, now I feel better though I think the world around me is crumbling down and I’m the only one noticing. I am scared, I don’t know if this last chemo will work. I don’t know how I’m going to eat the food my mum lovingly prepared for me, not because it’s not delicious, I’m sure it is, but I don’t think my body can handle food right now. Sometimes I feel lonely, just sitting here, in this city that I know nothing of even though I’ve been here for more than a year. I hate being here, but I don’t have a choice. Then often I feel jealous of my friends who are out there, doing something awesome with their lives. Most of the time I just feel numb. But you know, other than that, I’m good.”

I rarely tell people how I really feel because I know most won’t know what to say back (and that just makes me feel even more sorry for myself). It’s just such a complex question to me. There were moments when I felt like there were too many feelings inside of me, that answering the truth to that question would overwhelm other people, therefore I chose to keep it to myself.

How does it feel? How do you feel now?

Usually asked right after I’ve just done certain procedures like chemo or radiation.

My usual answer: “Umm…umm..OK, I guess.”

What I really want to say: (same as above, because really, after having chemo it takes at least a week to feel the side effects. And as for radiation, I can’t feel a thing)

The thing is, my illness is not something that I can exactly “feel”. Yes sometimes there is some sort of pain in my chest, the kind of pain that you’d feel after you fell and a bruised is left. But other times, I feel nothing. There is no bump visible (there used to be but now it’s gone), there is no rash, there is no burn, there are just remnants of my chemo effects. Maybe people expect me to say “well before chemo, I felt weak and breathless, now I can run a 10K marathon!” – something wow like that? I’m not quite sure.

There were times when friends would ask me this questions a week or so after chemo and I would honestly tell them about all the side effects I was feeling. But I had no elaborated answer for when the question was asked right (or a day or two) after the procedure.

Picture from here

How did you get it (cancer)?

I am not the type of person who gets offended easily by some weird questions regarding my sickness. And I try not to get offended, because some people don’t know how it is to have cancer, so I try to understand. But this one question, really bugs me.

My usual answer: “I don’t know.”

What I really want to say: “I really don’t know. I spend 90% of my time wondering about that same question. It’s the question that haunts me in the night, it’s the question that causes me to cry until I sleep, it’s the question that makes me Google for hours with no results. I don’t know how I got so ill, I don’t know how I got cancer. All I know is that it’s here and it’s ruining my life. You don’t get to ask that kind of question.”

I try not to get angry by this question, but it’s hard. For me, the question sounds like an accusation, in my sensitive mind it’s rephrased to “how the hell did you manage to get it?”. It’s a question I’m sure every cancer patient dreads. The question makes me feel guilty. It makes me overanalyze my life, trying to pick out which actions got me to this point. Was it drinking beer? Was it the over sweet macarons? Was it that delicious steak? It leads me to a never ending questions in which I can’t answer. Not even my doctor can explain to me. It’s that complicated. My point is, never ask this question to someone who has cancer. Never.


Sometimes questions are hard for me. I don’t know how to begin explaining. My journey has been a long one, what I feel today is an accumulation of feelings, decisions and actions. So to understand how I feel right now, you have to understand my whole history. Thank goodness for blogging.


10 thoughts on “Cancer Talk #26: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Saya sedih pas baca pertanyaan 3. Memang itu pasti paling sulit dijawab. Di semua textbook hampir semua penyakit rata rata idiopatik, (kecuali infeksi), yg lain cuma punya “faktor resiko” buat menjawab kehausan org2 mengenai apa asal muasal penyakit tsb. Pasti sulit.


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