Cancer: Unknown

Hi, I'm Jessi. I'm 35. I'm a wife, a mother of three, a communications professional, and I have cancer. I was originally diagnosed with Cancer of Unknown Primary, and then officially Small Round Cell Sarcoma. The official 5-year survival rate for this diagnosis is less than 5%, but that’s not me. I’m a survivor and I will beat this.

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  • Jessi Stetina

For the cheap seats in the back


Jack Handey gets it.

I cope through humor. I figure if I have to have cancer, I might as well get a laugh out of it. Much to the chagrin of my husband, I have used the line “But I have cancer…” a number of times in the past four months. Not to authentically pull the cancer card, but to use the humor of the situation to my advantage.


“Can you take out the trash? I would, but I have cancer.”


The greatest source of comedy and nail-biting awkwardness as it relates to cancer is telling people you have cancer. I try not to lead with it (“Nice to meet you. I have cancer.”), but it often will come up. Someone may ask how I’m doing in front of someone who doesn’t know, or someone asks a question that I can’t answer without also revealing the cancer. So I’m stuck with the moment of panic of how to tell this person. I guess there is no perfect way to drop the C bomb on someone. Be it a casual friend, or someone I’ve just met, there just isn’t a solid way to do it. It has been suggested that I should start wearing a button: “Ask Me About My Cancer!” But I can’t seem to find that on Etsy.


All I can find is this sweet Mulan one that seems premature to wear just yet.

I’ve opted mostly for the pull the Band-Aid off method. “Okay, just going to come out and say this – I have cancer.” God bless the poor person on the receiving end of this. I’ve been reacted to this news a number of ways - with nervous laughter, assuming I’ve just finally cross the line to wildly inappropriate jokes, with wide eyes of confusion, and one spit-take. For the most part, it’s a horribly awkward moment. However, I’m proud of the spit-take – it was always a dream of mine to cause one.


As irreverent as it all seems, again, it’s how I cope.


And it’s MY cancer - I get to make jokes about it.

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