Being the wife of a airline pilot garners one lots of attention. The minute his occupation is known, people flock to him like kids to the mating animals at the zoo. It's just so fascinating that they just can't tear themselves away. It's like a magnetic force that one can't control. I don't even bother introducing myself anymore; I just introduce him, grab myself a drink and bask in his glory, just like everyone else.
Being the wife of a cancer survivor garners a reaction that is very different. People don't want to flock to him. In fact, I've actually seen people take a physical step back from him when they find out. As if the disease is catching and will jump from him to them. I occasionally wonder if I used to do that too. They ask, out of politeness, if he's okay and then move on. As if being on leave negates that he ever was a pilot. People know us now, but not on the merits they used to.We used to be the cool people every one wanted to hear stories from. Now he's "the guy who had cancer".
The situation seems compounded by the fact that A looks pretty healthy now. The radiation burn is gone, the scar is diminished and his voice is stronger every day. If he had any other occupation, he'd be back at work already. Instead, he just looks like a free-loader, raking in the big (ha!) disability money while doing nothing. The reality is that he desperately wants to go back to work. Although he keeps his own frustrations inside, the occasional comment about "being yanked out of the sky" and the continual internal count of how long it's been since he's flown subtly let it be known.
At least when he was going through treatment people reached out. For the first time ever we ran out of minutes on our (massive) cell phone plan. For a brief time everyone wanted to know the cancer guy. But after the initial diagnosis interest waned. We are still dealing with the repercussions of cancer; very few people think to check in with us now.
Losing one's identity and being forced into a new, not so appealing one- another hidden effect of cancer.