A friend of mine was visiting with people who I have only met once. When these people asked my friend how “Steve was doing”, my friend had to pause. There is another Steve who lives in their town that everybody knows. But my friend asked them, “Cancer Steve?” And everyone knew who they were talking about.
I’ve never been known for one specific thing. I was never Cameraman Steve or Race Car Driver Steve. I was always just Steve…and I took a bit of pride in that. My low profile was something that I cherished. The ability to get in, get the job done and get out. Dependable. Reliable. Steve.
Now it’s strange to be known for something. Especially something that I didn’t ask for. I don’t blame my friend at all for using this nickname. We have all done it – describing someone based on their most obvious characteristic. That’s how we end up with friends like Fat Steve or Bald Steve or Super Hottie Steve or Cancer Steve.
As other cancer patients keep telling me, “Welcome to the club.” An elite club with lots of drugs. A club that nobody wants to be a member of.
Someone else recently asked me how much of my day is spent dealing or thinking about my cancer. How often do we feel like my condition is the foremost thing on our minds? And how much of the day can we forget about it?
Jen and I have been doing our best to forget about it as much as possible.
But every phone conversation involves talking about it. Everything I put in my mouth is affected by it. Every time I meet someone and I can’t hug them. I’d have to estimate it is on my mind about 100% of the time right now. That also makes me Cancer Steve.
And even when people mean their best…when I visit with friends and they form a circle around me with just an extra foot of distance because I can’t be around germs…that’s when I feel most like Cancer Steve. Under the microscope. Part of a secret world that few get to see.
I’ve changed. Or people’s perception of me has changed. I don’t know if I will feel this way forever. I doubt it. A couple of years of remission and most people will probably forget I ever had cancer in the first place. I hope I can forget I ever had this in the first place.
But I will always be part of this special club. When I talk to cancer patients who are in remission…who have gone through chemo (sometimes more than once)…we have our secret handshake, our knowing nod to each other and talk our secret cancer talk.
I’ve never felt like an insider. And having this condition can, at times, make me feel even more like an outsider. No longer Steve Dickter…but Cancer Steve.
I realize its not the only club in town. And there is really nothing special about it – a few abnormal cells is all you need to get past the velvet ropes.
I guess I’m always going to be Cancer Steve. But one day soon I’ll get back to being Healthy Steve or Steve With The Same Haircut Since 8th Grade or just plain old Steve.
Other famous Steve’s who you may or may not confuse me with: