About a month into a relationship with the man of my dreams, I got the dreaded text.
“We need to talk.”
Based on personal experience and every Rom Com ever made, I knew those 4 words signaled impending relationship doom. Few people have been known to remain completely unaffected after hearing them. Those 4 words manifest 20 possible scenarios in your head – all with elaborate sub-plots, none of them good. Those 4 words turned me into a panicky mess.
So, I did what any responsible adult in the middle of a self-imposed breakdown would do: I phoned a friend. Who knew how many hours two women could spend analysing the meaning of 4 words. We need to talk? We need to talk? To top it off, no emojis and a period at the end of the sentence? Was he trying to kill me?
What I didn’t see coming was a little gang of three words that would pack way more of a punch.
“I have cancer.”
And he needed space to figure out what it all means. And he won’t be in touch for a while.
A week of agony ensued. Will he? Won’t he? His silence was deafening. Until a delightful text from a friend helped me put this communication impasse into perspective:
“He’s not ghosting you. It’s cancer.”
Fast forward 4 years and Brendan and I are happily married, with cancer being our plus one. Not the threesome you would imagine, but hey.
Navigating marriage with a side of cancer brings its own communication challenges. For me, I wanted to acknowledge my partner’s experience, but I never knew if, when, or how to talk about it.
We found tools to learn how to communicate as a couple, like Love Languages, or “I” and “feeling” statements (*I feel* like you’re annoying, for example). But there weren’t many resources on how to talk about cancer.
So, we decided to write one.
We wrote the Glossary of Awkward: A modern lexicon of all the uncomfortable moments that arise from cancer to answer the question, “How can I be a better partner or friend to someone living with cancer?”
The book is a collection of funny cartoons that illustrate some of the uncomfortable conversations that are part of life with cancer. For both of us, saying ” I have cancer,” or “my husband has cancer,” led to some really awkward responses. These cartoons are inspired by real-life conversations. (Yes, people actually said these things.)
We discovered that, at the heart of every awkward (and sometimes offensive) response is an emotion that is hard-to-process. And so, we wanted to playfully define these emotions because it’s harder to talk about or resolve a feeling you can’t describe.
Humor, for us, was a great way to do that. Comedy allows us to confront painful truths with a laugh. For us, that felt empowering. We felt like humor took away some of cancer’s scariness because we were able to look directly at it and confront all of the emotional baggage it came with.
According to WHO, nearly every family in the world is affected by cancer. While cancer can bring people together, it often tears them apart. People living with cancer lose friends who don’t know what to say or how to be there, and who may end up distancing themselves as a result. We wrote Glossary of Awkward to bring people closer together during cancer, so we can all get better at being there for the people we love.
Glossary of Awkward is now on sale. You can order a copy for yourself or a loved one here: https://shop.urevolution.com/products/glossary-of-awkward-the-urban-dictionary-of-cancer
CEO & Co-founder of Uncomfortable Revolution