Part II – The reactions
“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” – Newton’s first law of motion.
When informed of a tumor, the myriad reactions that come forth are engaging, humorous, overbearing and occasionally heartfelt.
The thought of a person having a tumor demands a reaction which elicits a gamut of emotions that engulf an entire spectrum of human experience. These mandatory utterances, at times an insipid silence, have a potent effect on the variables that elucidate ones existence.
These may range from the pragmatic to the obscure. It also serves as an indicator to a person’s immediate response to a crisis or an awkward social situation, depending on ones proximity to the distressed being. But mostly they toe the predetermined social propriety instead of voicing what is truly felt.
The shell shocked
This kind is left speechless when told about the tumor. The word itself has such a tremendous impact that everything else, including the bearer of the lump, becomes secondary.
This kind is prone to shedding copious tears and also ascribing blame to something or someone for the condition and most likely it is going to be you, God or both. A lack of any information on the subject except things internalized via media and movies is a special characteristic.
The overtly caring
This kind is generally nice by nature, may be a bit too nice. On being informed a moment of silence is followed by a gracious offer of “How can I help?” when very little can be done. If one accepts these innocuous proposals then they get to work with a missionary zeal to make you feel better, no pun intended.
A feeling of asphyxiation may soon take over as you will be left with little room to even wiggle your toes. Right from an umpteenth number of phone calls to the tracking of your bowel movements, this category seldom spares you from the details. I do not intend to be sexist but old aunties and clingy girlfriends are more prone to this peculiar behaviour.
The pseudo concerned
This type will censure you, usually in a high pitch voice, for not informing them earlier.
Terming you as callous and without any respect for the relationship you share with them, they will threaten to terminate all contact.
Barely having recovered from this onslaught you decide to apologize in spite being the patient here. This is when you will be informed of their paucity of time and truck loads of work to be finished. And before you can remember the last time they called, they are gone. Just like that.
This person is usually well read. It could be a dissertation on the amount of pesticide to be used to ward of farm rats, rest assured he would have read it. This affliction to peripheral knowledge, apart from his professional area of course, leads to what I call an ‘oracle complex’, the condition of knowing it all.
When told about the condition, this individual will most likely tilt his head upwards with the stem of his spectacles in his mouth, in grave contemplation. He will grill you about the nature of the disease, giving an occasional smirk if you do not know a particular detail, which will be diligently pointed out.
Suddenly inspired by a mysterious celestial force he will launch into a discourse about the disease and how one can circumvent the condition. Peppered with unnecessary factoids that hardly seem relevant to you, this person will single handedly cure you, in his mind that is.
Here the focus is not on advice but on the brazen display of perceived talent and infinite knowledge which is expected to be ratified with a “You should have been a doctor!”
Also, you will be subjected to an “I told you so” at the end of the monologue. This will be followed even after your diagnosis and medical treatment, at every step, irrespective of its success or failure.
The alternate thinker
More than a trait, this is a condition. This person ardently believes that cancer or AIDS is a matter of perception, a ploy by the westerners to degenerate our minds. So, terms like ‘allopathy’, ‘surgery’ or anything even remotely related to modern medicine is blasphemous, a curse borne by Humankind.
This man’s panacea lies in age old traditions and indigenous medication. Ayurveda, Unani, Chinese medicine, Reiki, holistic healing et cetera is a part of his core belief system. In his case he may choose to give it a miss and try the occasional asprin to relieve headaches, but that is hardly the issue here.
The point is to convince you about the many benefits of local organic medicines which are said to have no side effects. Whether you try it or not is immaterial.
This category may be a composite of all of the above or a unique entity by themselves. The common factor that determines their reaction, almost making it eerily similar in all these individuals, is the obsessive compulsion of giving advice.
Irrespective of any prior knowledge about the condition they will offer advice because that is what they feel is the right thing to do. It stems from the innate notion that one should help in any way possible or at least suggest so with a plethora of pointers relating to general hygiene to the type of treatment.
Also, this type has an instinctive ability to relate any matter under the sun to your disease. Like global warming and its possible effects on your surgery or your thumb length’s implication on recovery period. This radical theorizing need not have logical reasons in support. The idea here is that at least I contributed something.
This type is the opposite of the ‘shell shocked’ category. They hardly seem to care about what bothers you or the kind of disease you have. For the sake of social niceties they will ask about it, and then continue to talk about what bothers them.
This casual observer cannot do much to make you feel better or worse for that matter. Also, his inane rants take you away, even if only for a moment, from your preoccupation with the tumor. This type is easier to deal with as compared to the ‘overtly caring’ or ‘the know-it –all’ but can be frustrating when in genuine need of solace or a kind word.
The somber and pragmatic
These individuals are the best of the lot. They are aware of their own limitations with regards to medical knowledge. They let you do the talking and listen intently. They will even read about it online and discuss the pros and cons of a treatment.
Without any baggage or assumptions they deal with the situation as it comes. Also, they are a repository of emotional and moral support. At times they can be very grave and contemplative but they will try their best to make you smile.