sometimes zero communication is better

Yesterday we were out enjoying a leisurely day. We stopped at a furniture store, and I found myself in a conversation with the salesperson about cancer. He had been treated about a year ago for a rare cancer in the form of a tumor in his face. He said he was lucky because they were able to remove the entire tumor successfully, and the doctor tells him that he is essentially cured. But, then, he continued to tell me how his doctor, from UCLA, told him that even though the cancer was gone, everyone who has ever had cancer will die from it. I just said, Really, he said that? And he repeated it. I said that maybe there was a misunderstanding. At that point, I got the impression that he had not planned to be in a discussion with someone who knows anything about cancer, so I changed the subject.

The point of this story is this. So much of the discussions we have in groups and online have a lot to do with communication. Communication between us (with cancer) and others: our spouses, other family members, caregivers, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers. It can be frustrating because people whom we encounter too often, without a clue, spout out comments about us, our cancer, the “someone” they knew who had the same cancer that either died or was miraculously cured from drinking green tea (or whatever). The list of comments could circle the block a few times. It would appear that such statements by such individuals please them with the idea that they have offered us some sort of solace or hope. I have questioned the prudence of my trying to elucidate such an individual to help eradicate a bit of ignorance. As you might be able to tell from reading this, it’s probably better that I keep those educational notes to myself.

After dealing with this since 2009 I am now of the opinion that it does not really matter what anyone else thinks or knows about what is going on with me. No matter what you say, it will not matter; they will actually argue with you even though you probably have read reams of reliable information on the subject and they have read zilch. Such individuals prefer to live in their state of ignorance. People who really want to know ask questions. Lately, when someone starts telling me a story, I listen, I smile, if reasonable, and I change the subject. Otherwise, by nature I would talk or argue until the cows came home, and I haven’t seen them for quite a while. I find that I’m happier leaving them with the illusion that we had a conversation even though we had zero communication.

And, I think of what George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

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© 2004–2011 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.

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