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Ask Amy: I hate blaming my fatigue on my cancer

4 min

Dear Amy: Six years ago, I developed a difficult cancer with a life expectancy of three to six months.

After many months of chemo, I received a donor bone marrow transplant from a specialty hospital, where I was for several more months. The transplant was “successful,” and the probability of reoccurrence is low. I worked very hard at recovery. Now I am trying to accept a new normal.

I have post-transplant complications including fatigue, graft versus host disease, organ damage, emotional trauma, food constraints and am immune compromised. I try to present myself well, but it’s hard to keep up the act, and sooner or later something comes up that highlights my inabilities.

I get tired of blaming “the Big C,” but often it comes out; for example, I get extremely fatigued and have to leave after a few hours, or people resent the fact that I am still careful and masking, so I mumble something to explain myself.

I have not been able to come up with a way to present myself that works well (I make jokes that fall flat, etc.). I often decline social engagements for all of those reasons and also just because I don’t want to be odd. Any suggestions for how to be me?

— New Me

New Me: You are a chronically health-challenged person trying to integrate with people who have no idea — and no way of knowing — how hard you are working to experience the world as they do. It truly does sound exhausting.

I’m going to be presumptuous and write you a prescription: to lean in and resist the constant urge to “pass.”

I speak now on behalf of my fellow oddballs. Life is easier — for you and for others — when you embrace the concept of self-care, which in your case is to be gentle with yourself, to fully and authentically be yourself, and to make sure that your own needs are met.

If you believe that healthy people resent your need to be extremely careful, for instance by wearing a mask, then tell yourself (and others, if you are confronted) that if they would like to experience the life-changing effects of cancer, you would be happy to switch places with them.

You also need to experience a connection with people who will not expect you to explain yourself. Join a cancer survivor support group.

Researching your question, I’ve found a helpful online group: “Cancersurvivors” on Reading through the first several postings, I see that there are other people out there who understand what you are going through and who will fully support the “new you.”

Dear Amy: I’ve been teaching in postsecondary institutions for over 30 years. I’ve received likely thousands of course revaluations, and now I get to “enjoy”

It should be no surprise that “complainers” are the most likely people to participate in these various rating services.

I want to thank you for something. Your choice to publish the complaint letters that you receive and the way you respond, often with humor, has helped me to stop focusing on the complainers and see the humor — not to mention also recognizing the many non-complainers.

— Grateful Prof

Prof: Thank you! I learned a long time ago that harsh or negative responses can take up more mental space than the many positive responses I receive.

I run some of these negative responses for two reasons: Because they are sometimes offering an important or useful correction, or they are representative of a large group of respondents.

I am sometimes thin-skinned — but to quote my late mother, who went to college and became a professor in her mid-50s after working in much more physically challenging, low-paying and so-called menial jobs: “Doing this sure beats having a real job.”

I never forget how lucky I am.

Dear Amy: I’m responding to the question from “Locked In,” who caught her roommates sneaking into her locked room after installing a camera.

I am a landlord. In my jurisdictions (and probably many others), it is illegal to install a lock with a key on a bedroom door. It’s a fire hazard and can impede firefighters.

So maybe the letter writer should give her valuables to a trusted friend for safekeeping and then make plans to move ASAP, rather than strengthen the lock on the door. The whole thing sounds creepy.

— Landlord

Landlord: Great point! I also agree about the creep factor.

Looking into this topic, I stumbled across a TON of security camera footage of roommates sneaking into others’ rooms — sometimes taking things, and other times just … snooping.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.