Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cancer Culture #1

So, speaking of liminality and liminal spaces and places, let's talk Cancer Culture. The ways of the folk are divided into three categories: make (material), say (cultural), do (customary). In every day culture or folk ways, these could be:
  •  Make - Sunday dinner - the same meal every Sunday, which then becomes customary as well.
  • Say - How did you sleep? Don't be late for school? How was your day? Good grief it's cold, Hi, Hey, Howdy, Whassup - these are things we say on a regular basis, words that are expected to come from us.
  • Do - make our bed a particular way, wear a specific clothing item for a specific day/time/event. Pray over the food, don't speak with food in our mouths. Check Facebook first thing when we get to work. And these happen on a regular basis.

When we make, say, do these "all the time" they become customs or habits, and when we involve others in our doing, they become traditions.

This happens also with special events:
  • Make - fruit cake for Christmas, colored eggs for Easter, corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. Or - Christmas decorations, birthday cakes, reservations at the restaurant we ate at on our first date (which becomes a "do").
  • Say - Happy New Year, Happy Singles Awareness Day, Another Year Older, sing - Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you . . .
  • Do - Go to the restaurant we went to on our first date every year (reflected in the "make"), go to Island Park for our family reunion every other year, give gifts for birthdays, fold our arms in worship service.

And now to Cancer Culture:
I'm not sure if I can make this into an itemized list, so let me describe what I've experienced -
  • Say - there are words that are only understood by those experiencing cancer and cancer treatments. "I'm a stage 1, grade 3, triple negative." "Oh, that's a cute hat." With the reply, "It's not there just for beauty." And the reply, "I'm a survivor; I . . . " Or, IV therapy, hydration, dex, let me know, terminal, metastasized, every 3 weeks, there goes a nail, no hair - anywhere; radiation tattoo, port, chemo sick.
And words cancer folks don't use - victim, patient, it could be worse, cheer up - which then would define who the insiders are and who the outsiders are - by the words, phrases they use.

  •  Do - Clothing - v-neck t-shirts, button down the front shirts, stretchy pants, warm socks, layers, hats with liners, ill-fitting wigs. I have clothes I haven't worn this fall/winter because I don't have hats/scarves that match them! I have a pair of Dansko shoes I have not worn, because I haven't gone anyplace fancy enough to wear them! I know which yarn is the best yarn for hats, how to wash hats, how to tie scarves, how cold the back of my neck gets and how to wear a scarf and a hat together, and the beauty of wearing a hat to bed! I dress up for chemo and IV therapy - a lady last week told me, "You are the best dressed of all of Dr. Rich's patients. I know, I've been watching." Ha! What an award to win - something that doesn't matter to the outsider's world, but for insider's, it's "important"! 
    • And blankets - which belong in the make and do categories - the chemo room is cool, chemotherapy itself is not warm, and most chemo patients are cold from their situations. So a blanket - this season it's a "minky," (flannel, fleece) are so important. If you bring your own blanket, it's usually a gift - which is another "do," someone "made" and gifted you with that blanket. I've written about blankets in another post. As you can see from these pictures, there are fleece scarves and knitted or crocheted caps. These are gifts to the chemo unit - things that people make and then give/do.

More tomorrow -

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