Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DO you have the plague? No.. I have CANCER.. The mask and how people react to it.

As discussed in yesterday’s adventure with me, I have Neutropenia. My white blood cell count is extremely low and I can get sick very easily. So I have to wear a mask at all times.


I have many masks ranging from the regular ones you get at the hospital



to goofy ones my friends have bought me


to my favorites from I have added some decorations to the masks from


What I find disturbing are the stares I get from people. Whatever happened to it not being polite to stare? More than once I have had to stop what I am doing and say, “I have stage four cancer. I am not contagious. I am wearing the mask so you don’t get me sick. Please stop staring at me”.  This is usually met with embarrassment and apologies. I have had people hang their head and walk briskly away. I even had one person almost cry because they were so embarrassed.


I have even been kicked out of a beauty salon for refusing to take off my mask because it made their other patrons uncomfortable. Even after I explained I had cancer. (Dear readers, please don’t talk about mass boycotts. I promise none of you have or will ever shop there. They are a small mom and pop place. I just refuse to spend my money there anymore).


My experience has also been that the more bling/jewelry I have, the less scary it is. I found this especially true at faire. The more accessorized the mask is, the more people think it’s a costume piece. I also get a LOT more questions about the reason for the mask. When I explain, people still apologize and run away. But at least I get to talk to them first?


I also try not to go out on Sundays. I have a few places I feel safe. They know me at my Sunday morning café and I’ve heard her say, ‘She has cancer. She just wants to eat like you’.  My mother jumped in someone’s face for staring at me and making a rude comment. So far the worst comments and stares have come from people groups of people just leaving church. You would not believe the nasty comments. (Freak, attention whore, why is she wearing that?) Now I am basing them coming from church being on what they are wearing on a Sunday. and the fact that I ask them, 'Did you just come from church?'. I have been known to stand up, walk over to the table, tell them my story, tell them I’d ‘pray for them’ ,then walk away. Do they not teach tolerance in church. What about praying for the sick? Is this lost? I was taught not to stare. I was taught to assume the best in people.


Then there is the exact opposite: The overly touchy. Now, I admit I am a hugger but it’s usually with people I know. But I have had an extreme amount of people want to lay their hands on my cancer. I had someone do it once after asking if they could touch me. It was very uncomfortable. Now I ask people why they want to touch me, first. Most of my friends know to ask me first. I have a stunt hugger with me when I am in public places. RadLad and the Mom are my stand ins. There are very few people I will touch or hug anymore.


So here are the lessons I want you to walk away with:

1)      Stop staring at people who are handicapped/sick. It’s rude. They know they are sick/handicapped and just want to live, eat, socialize, like you.

2)      If you have a question about the sickness, ASK.

3)      You will know if I can hug you by me holding my arms out. Otherwise, deflect your hug to my stunt hugger.
I love you all. Thanks for reading my semi-rant.



1 comment:

  1. Sadly, polite is no longer part of the basic education provided, either at home or at school. It's become more about "me, me, me" and less about the community or others in the community.
    When I see anyone with a mask on, especially away from a medical facility, I assume that their immune system is compromised in some way, and that it is indeed for THEIR protection, and not because they have something from which I need protection. Then again, for my entire life, there's virtually always been someone who was sick and/or handicapped in some way. My earliest memories of preschool/school include a little girl on crutches, and when we moved to the next duty station, there was the next-door neighbor boy with cerebral palsy. Back in TX after a military retirement, my deaf cousin and my blind friend at school. I think I was probably in 9th grade before I didn't have at least one class with someone with a visible disability, so perhaps I was conditioned early NOT to treat them differently.

    Hope to see you at Scarby this weekend (we spoke briefly a couple of weeks ago at Majikah Perfumery, I was waiting on delivery of 5 of the hankies that afternoon. (I got them, and mine is likely going to become my favor saver for a few years!

    *virtual hugs*