Eighteen years ago I was first diagnosed with inflammatory breast disease. It’s a very aggressive form of cancer. My oncologist told me I had about 6 months to live. I did my own research and, sure enough, only 15% of people diagnosed with this type of breast cancer survived more than 18 months.
Yet I survived.
Once I was in remission, I enrolled in graduate school. Instead of engineering, which is what I majored in prior to cancer, I decided to try something different — history. Something I’d always been interested in.
For the most part, I had a great experience. I enjoyed the coursework and most of my professors were great. So were many of my classmates.
But not all of them.
You see, I gained a significant amount of weight during chemotherapy and radiation. And my right breast, the one that had gotten the radiation treatment, was now much smaller than my left breast. My chest was misshapen.
And a few of my fellow grad students were not particularly mature or kind.
I overheard some of their comments on several occasions.
The first couple of times, it hurt my feelings. Plus, it was unfair. It wasn’t my fault I was fat! The cancer treatment had destroyed my metabolism!
But then I had to ask myself — what kind of person would make fun of someone who had suffered what I had?
I thought back to my own experiences on the other side of the fence.
When I was working on my MSEE a few years prior to getting married, there was a guy in my dorm who was diagnosed with cancer. He lost his hair. He needed a wheelchair. He lost a lot of weight and became way too thin.
Did I make fun of this?
I offered to take him to appointments, but he told me what he really wanted was a friend to take him for Thai food.
“I am sick of the food in our cafeteria,” he said. “I really appreciate the friends who stand in line for me when I need to eat here, but sometimes I just want…”
“Thai food,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
So I took him for Thai food whenever he wanted. We were both broke grad students so we’d just split the bill even though a couple of times I offered to treat. But he wouldn’t let me.
He did let me drive and set up his wheelchair, but he insisted on rolling it himself.
We’d sit and talk. Not about cancer. About anything else.
And it made him happy.
I never commented in a negative way about how his appearance had changed.
I did tease him sometimes, and he liked it when I did. But… making fun of his appearance? That would have been cruel.
Even if someone is not dealing with cancer — making fun of them because they are “too fat” or “too thin” is uncalled for and mean.
Don’t do it. And when someone else does — walk away.
It’s OK to be fat. It’s OK to be thin. It’s not OK to be cruel.
I am fighting stage IV cancer. If you can help with medical bills, I would really appreciate it. Or if you enjoy my writing and would like to buy me a cup of coffee, that’s great too. Maybe someday I can return the favor.
Not a Medium member yet? Consider joining. You’ll be able to read a variety of content from many talented authors. At only $5 a month, it’s a great value. This link will lead you to my landing page where you can sign up.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock.com