Dear Lady Sitting Next To Me On The Plane,
It was great to meet you on our Phoenix-to-Chicago trip from hell last month. But I've got some feedback for you.
After leaving Phoenix a day later than I had planned to (and a day later than my suitcase), our "cozy" ride in the extra narrow front row of the plane was intensely frustrating and uncomfortable for both of us. When we went from circling Chicago to being diverted to St. Louis, it put everyone on edge. It isn't your fault that I had packed my copious amounts of medication in my aforementioned suitcase and that they were sitting in Boston, awaiting my arrival. It was really nice of you to get me a bag of pretzels and a can of water (who even knew that was a thing?) from the frazzled flight attendant as she worked to keep us all from flipping our lids while we waited out the storms on the tarmac, 250 miles south of where we were supposed to be. I was getting pretty shaky, and will be forever grateful for your help.
When you asked me about my cancer, I wasn't offended. Some people don't like to talk about their serious illnesses, but as anyone who has read this blog can tell you, I'm an open book. You had a lot of questions, and you had a lot of people in your life that you wanted to tell me about. I admire your persistence; you didn't let a little gesture like me putting in my earbuds stop you from telling your stories. It seems to me that that was the turning point in our relationship.
You offered me a lot of advice at that point in the conversation without even being asked. Allow me to return the favor.
When you've met one person with cancer, you've met exactly one person with cancer. Just because your second cousin's husband miraculously won his battle and has been cancer-free for six years, that doesn't mean that my story is going to end that way. I know you wanted to give me hope, but some random stranger's good health doesn't have any bearing on mine. Right or wrong, it actually makes me feel a bit discouraged that my journey isn't going as well as good old Cousin Roger.
More importantly, let's talk about my diet... and how you should never talk about it. There are only a handful of people in my life that are allowed to talk to me about the food I eat. And those people very rarely bring it up because they know what a complicated thing food can be for those of us who are going through chemotherapy. It's not as simple as you made it sound, but I am not obligated to explain that to you. I should be allowed to just turn on my podcast and end such a conversation without feeling rude. I've endured enough without hearing your story about the sour cream substitute you make out of cauliflower. You should never ever tell that story, not even if someone asks you, "what is the strangest thing you've ever made out of cauliflower?". It's gross.
So thank you, Lady, for your good intentions. I hope that I've been able to help you to more closely align those intentions with the things that actually come out of your mouth. Talking is not always better than not talking.
The Girl In The Middle Seat