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There I was, leaving Dick’s sporting goods in June/July of 2011.  A man approached me in the parking lot and asked if I wanted to purchase a Pirate ticket package.  He had the tickets right there and it was part of some direct marketing promotion, similar to things I’ve seen at Sam’s Club.  I politely declined yet he pressed on.  Having little interest, less time and growing annoyed I finally said, “Look, my son has cancer.  He is about to go in for a surgery which may be our last ditch effort to get rid of the cancer.  I just don’t know what the rest of my summer will look like.”  I had hesitated to hit him over the head with it like that but finally resorted to it and it worked to perfection.  He apologized, wished me “good luck”, and all but ran away from me.  “Hmmmmmm” I thought, “nice.”

One of Trey’s Oncologists, Dr. Scooter (not his name but I call him that as he looks so very young) is intertwined with one of our social circles.  From time to time we see him at parties or get togethers and it’s all very cordial and friendly and not as awkward as you might think.  One time I was talking to a guy who I didn’t know, didn’t particularly care for, didn’t agree with any of what he was saying, didn’t like his breath, and obviously did not like how close he was talking to me.  Finally, he walked away.  I turned to my friend standing beside me and said, “Man, I almost had to drop the “C” card on him there.  You know, there are so few benefits to having a child with cancer, the “C” card is one of them.”  Two people down from my friend was Dr. Scooter, standing alone up against the wall, minding his own business.  I saw him overhear me and he simply closed his eyes and nodded “yes” in agreement with my previous statement.  I cracked up at his quiet approval or “giving me permission” to play the “C” card.

It’s interesting.  I remember when my dad first “left” our family (moved out when I was 12) I knew that (having watched a slew of after school specials) that he would feel guilty and begin to buy me stuff and for lack of a better term, spoil me.  Sure enough, that first Sunday we went and played racquetball (don’t judge, it was the early80’s), went to the Steelers game in the Westinghouse luxury box, and I got lots of nice swag (sweatshirt, Steeler jacket, etc.).  I remember thinking that even though my world was upside down I should make the best out of it.  Now, 30 years later, I’m still doing that.

Please understand, the “C” card can be dangerous.  We are aware of that.  It can’t be used all willy nilly.  You then would become “that” person.  Clinically speaking, if you use it all the time it’s a sign of enmeshment or even depression.  You aren’t able to separate your life from your circumstances at all.  On the other hand, it can also be a sign of detachment.  “How can they be so callous as to talk about advantages to cancer?” one might think.  If you are not feeling and experiencing all the emotions of your “story” and using humor as a shield then you are headed for big problems as well.  Believe me, Rachel and I go through every emotion associated with this tremendously taxing time.   However, responsible use of the “C” card is, in my opinion wise, prudent and yes, one of the very few advantages to this insipid disease.

Another interesting thing is that Rachel never ever uses it.  She’ll even go out of her way to not use it.  Meanwhile, I’ve toyed with the idea of actually making a card up essentially creating a literal “C” card.  Last night we talked about our differing opinions and got a great introspective as to where we have been (emotionally in our lifetime) and where we are now.  In fact, the conversation started as I told Rachel about someone I barely knew who complained to me about something very…very trivial, at best (and remember, I’m the guy who says we all have stories and we are not to judge others hurts).  I told Rachel that I should have waited until the very end (this went on waaayyyy too long and I tried to nonverbally get out of it several times to no avail) and then dropped the “C” card on them, “Yeah, I can’t imagine what that must be like for you but we have a son with cancer and…”  No, that would be a violation of the unwritten rules of the “C” card in many many ways.  I did, however, get a good laugh out of the thought of it.  We then both sighed, looked at each other, and finished our 15 minutes together.

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