Playing the Cancer Card, Another Hidden Perk of Having a Life-Threatening Disease

Right now, mine's only virtual.

Right now, mine’s only virtual.

A couple months ago, my friend Erin told me that when her husband had Hodgkin’s and they needed an excuse to get out of something, they’d invoke what they called “the Hodgy card.” Forget to bring something to a potluck, need to get out of attending a social event, screw up something at work? Play the Hodgy card. Who’s gonna argue with cancer? It’s airtight.

This was a revelation to me. I’ve been trying to invoke it as often as I can ever since; the more absurd the situation, the better.

A few weeks ago, a group of women came over to play Mahjong. It’s awesome when they do this because sometimes I worry that my relationship with Netflix is becoming a little too intimate, and I might forget how to interact with real people. However, the truth is I really don’t understand Mahjong, I have only a mild passing interest in fixing this, and chemo-brain has rendered the possibility of doing so mostly moot. It brings shame to the memory of my Grandmother; I am the world’s worst Mahjong partner. Luckily, I have a cancer card! Someone HAS to be my partner. And, even better, when I stare at her dumbly in response to almost any inquiry, she has to be nice to me. The table was a little stunned when my response to one pointed question requiring a modicum of calculation was a blunt “I dunno. I have cancer!” I, however, found my declaration hilarious and totally responsive.

This week, I had an opportunity to employ the cancer card again. My daughter Dina is a voracious reader. Just keeping up the flow of books is like trying to feed that ravenous gigantic dragon in the cave in the How to Train Your Dragon movie – I feel like we just toss books into the room and hope that we’ve sated the beast for at least 24 hours. It can be hard to find titles that have content suitable for an 8 year old, with a page count high enough to hold her for a day or two. A while back, pre-diagnosis, I had wandered into a nice independent bookstore and made note of several books in the kids section that they had featured with “we recommend” review cards, so I’d have ideas for Dina at the library.* (I also occasionally purchase things there. I’m not a horrible person.) I kept that list, and have passed it on to Eric since he’s taken over the task of feeding the beast since I’ve been sick.

Last week, Eric picked up a title from the list at the library and Dina dove in. A few days later I noticed Dina writing a book report for her homework that mentioned something about a character being drunk and in college. I was alarmed and started to say something, but then a squirrel ran by outside or something and I totally forgot about it.

Then, last night Eric emerged from Dina’s room, arms crossed, eyebrows arched and said to me, “Dina just asked me what the word ‘f**king’ means, and she pointed to a page in the book you suggested we get for her.”

Man. Can’t a girl rip-off recommendations from an independent bookstore without double-checking them anymore? Jesus. I have cancer.

Stay-tuned for more perks of cancer, like crying in public at awkward moments, negotiating with health insurance companies, and getting to know your pharmacist on a first name basis. Although there is that handicapped permit…

* The observant reader may notice that I ripped-off this title pre-diagnosis. Luckily, I have decided that the cancer card excuse applies retroactively.