At Target

At Target last night, after a cancer recovery meeting that went way past bedtime:

Stranger: Girl, WHAT did you do to your arm?
Me: I went and got cancer.
Me: I know! Can you believe it?

It happened not once, not twice, but four times during the hour that I shopped, treating myself to new sheets and towels, and picking up thisandthat, as always happens at Target. (My girlfriends and I are convinced that it’s just not possible to get out of there for under $100. Target’s got some magical sway over us, I suppose, but stuff — and it is just stuff, no matter how necessary — just flies into our carts.) Now, I realize that the lymphedema wrap makes it obvious, but, really? I didn’t expect four strangers to stop me and ask what I’d done to myself. (Oooh! I gave myself cancer! I know! I was so clumsy, I went and broke my CELLS.)

The second time, I was taking compression singlets (tank tops for running, only I need them for lymphedema compression, since my core is swollen too, in every place I had radiation) into the dressing room. (Oh, and no, they didn’t fit. For some reason, all of them required boobs. And perfect underarms. But I digress.)

The third time, it was a woman I passed in the detergent aisle. The fourth, the checkout clerk (who, as it turns out, had cancer too — 16 years ago — and we had a most wonderful chat).

Once upon a time, I would have covered it up. Made a lame joke. Made an excuse. Said something — anything — to avoid talking about cancer. But I told you. I’m done.

I’m done covering up for cancer.


22 Responses to At Target

  1. And you shouldn’t have to.


  2. laurie says:

    Seen these? They had a booth at the Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer. Really cool sleeves.

  3. dizzymum says:

    Poor you. It sucks enough without strangers reminding you about it! Sure they mean well though. Maybe you should ask Target to make you a t-shirt! Anyway, hope you feel better soon.

  4. Nancy says:

    Ugh, don’t people ever think before they open their mouths to speak?

  5. Emily says:

    I kind of go through the same thing. I walk with a cane and I get met with the odd question of, “What happened to you”? I either say, “Lupus happened to me” or “I have Lupus.” I’ve been sick with something or other for 6 years but now that I have cane people think that I have hurt my foot or something!

    Yes, I have Lupus and sometimes you need a cane or even a wheelchair. I can’t cover it up any more and now that I am no longer working I don’t attempt to hide it. I always answer honestly.

  6. whymommy says:

    Cute link, Laurie! They have a list of things to say in just this situation. My favorite?

    “Trapeze accident.”

    What do you say, Emily? Should we both have trapeze accidents the next time someone asks?

  7. The Mrs. says:

    Not that this was the point of your post – but I also agree that Target has some magic over us as I cannot leave there without spending at least $100.
    Also, I second what Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said.

  8. Amy@UWM says:

    Reminds me of the time I was pregnant and strangers would ask all kinds of questions — when are you due? What are you having? That always annoyed me. I don’t know you — why are you asking me personal questions? I thought of having a t-shirt made with all the answers so people would stop bugging me. That’s what you should do too. It could say, “Don’t ask. It’s cancer.”

  9. NoRegrets says:

    I think being open about it is fine… It’s odd having a psychological disability since it doesn’t appear at all – and people sometimes wonder why you’re acting weird but it’s hard to say – oh, I’m severely depressed or oh, I have bipolar disorder.

    Target is indeed fun.

    Hey, I meant to write you. If you know anyone who wants a quilt, for cheap, I made one for charity and it’s pretty, if I do say so myself. See:

  10. Amyb says:

    Fat girls such as myself know all about compression gear: Under Armour has some really great products. They are pricey but they really hold their shape and will last a long time.

  11. marty says:

    I’ve always wanted perfect armpits.

  12. Ally says:

    I love your attitude about this. No reason to hide. I can’t help but think that people are just trying to connect with you in some way, even if their questions are unnecessarily nosey and obtrusive. I’m glad it lead to a good conversation with the checkout clerk.

  13. Spilt Milk says:

    I’ve never read your blog before but I stumbled here and I just have to say – love this post. Love your approach. Good for you. Maybe those people learned something.

  14. thordora says:

    My mother never hid it either, and she was such a role model for me in that way. I remember thinking she was so brave for facing it head on for what it was.

    People are curious is the worst ways I’ve found. You go girl. πŸ™‚

  15. Amelie says:

    You go, Whymommy. The trapeze accident answer is a good one, too.

  16. jodifur says:

    wow, do people ever need to shut up.

    I get all the time, you have a 4 year old? When are you going to give that kid a sibling.

    I can’t have anymore children.

    they could be wrong-

    Um they are not. I have a chronic illness and if I have another child I could die.

    As I said, people need to shut up.

  17. imstell says:

    Susan… I kind of have the opposite problem. I don’t even have lymphedema and my armpits are far, far from perfect these days. They always feel swollen. Just the arm pits themselves. But they’re not. I guess it’s the numbness. It’s still sort of there and starting to sort of go away. Something about that combo makes my pits feel fat. 😦

    I’ve gone up to perfect strangers in Target, raised my arm over my head and said, “Does my armpit look fat to you?” I’ve had people peer quite close and shake their head. Others have indicated that while my armpit seems fine (if a bit on the hairy side) my upper arm fat might need it’s own zip code. Most others, however, simply give me the stink eye & walk away. Humph.

    I completely feel your pain… well, maybe not completely. But you know what I mean. Cancer sucks.

  18. magpie says:

    I’m blowing you a kiss from here.

  19. I have been wearing a sling for 4 weeks. Every where I go people ask what I did to myself.

    I say ‘sports injury’ which is technically right, it mainly happens in sportspeople and people laugh (which I am not sure if they are laughing with me or at the ludicrous notion that this body plays sport) but seriously, WHY are people so freaking interested?

    Your comeback is a classic though babe. Absolutely hilarious!

  20. Sara says:

    It sucks that you have to talk about it when you might not necessarily want to. But it’s cool that you’ve stopped covering it up. Your openness and candor on here has educated me quite a bit about inflammatory breast cancer and breast cancer in general. When more women know about it, fewer women will wait before seeking treatment/diagnosis.

    Do you at least get pleasure out of the shocked looks on their faces? I’ve scarred a few people for life when they ask where my accent comes from. “France?” they guess.. “England?” and I shake my head. “I’m deaf. It’s a deaf accent. I lost my hearing when I was five.” The really funny thing is when people that have been talking to me for 15 minutes (I lipread) get all freaked out and just walk away without saying anything else. πŸ™‚

  21. Sarah S. says:

    You are funny “I went and broke my cells” πŸ™‚ I will have to remember that one. I found sometimes people don’t know what to say when you tell them you had cancer. It makes them very uncomfortable.

    I agree I can never make it out of Target for under $100!

  22. amanda says:

    People, precious and foolish.

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