Sunday, January 11, 2009

Being the wife of the cancer guy vs. the wife of the pilot

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.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

Sorry to hear. I've always heard that in tough times you'll find out who your true friends are. Stay strong, this too shall pass! :)

Nicole said...

I can understand what you mean about people's interest waning. My dad got in a terrible car wreck last January and right when it happened, the phone was ringing off the hook. His life was dramatically changed for the remainder of his life. My dad's lonely, he's still not back to work full time, and sometimes a week will pass before someone outside the family checks on him. I think about your family often, even if I don't say hi. Working in healthcare, I've seen the people that shy away from cancer patients. It's not contagious...they need your love too! Good luck.

Elsja said...

I'm so sorry to hear this... but so happy that he is ok! I wonder if people just don't know how to react, or respond. They can't really say "I'm so sorry, get well soon" And they can't really say "how cool" because cancer is not cool- it's just some weird thing in between. But honestly, it would be really easy to say "wow, I'm so glad to hear you are doing well, how are you feeling?" You really do find out who your true friends are in times of hardship (and the time after).

partnerofapilot said...

Oh honey, That's awful! I think you should just be done with it, and tell them that it's not catching, and he wont bite them (hard)

I hope this is a thing of the past for you guys soon. How long is it now until A can return to work?

msflyerswife said...

Poor A: you nailed it about the social magnet that a professional pilot is. I call mine armcandy because no one wants to see or talk to me when we're together: unless he's not with me and then they want to know where he's at this trip...either that or it's because I'm a lawyer....