Saturday, May 9, 2009

Someone isn't looking out for me

I badly needed a haircut, but I hadn't felt up to getting one for a while. But today I went to my long-time stylist, Suzie, who I hadn't seen since before my surgery. She asked how I was, and since she didn't seem to remember my previously telling her about the series of events, over a number of months, that eventually led to my cancer diagnosis, I repeated the story.

I told her about the doctors who used their expertise and skill to give me good advice, and my decision at each step to follow the doctors' recommended course of action, even when they all told me that, based on the information they had at the time, the odds that I had cancer were small. So, I told Suzie, the cancer diagnosis was a surprise, even to my doctors, and that the fact that it was found at all was somewhat serendipitous--my surgeon, who thought he was operating on me to remove a benign growth and some precancerous cells, also happened to excise the cancer cells that the previous needle biopsy had missed.

At the conclusion of my story, Suzie chirped cheerfully, "Someone was looking out for you!"

"If 'Someone' was really 'looking out' for me, I wouldn't have cancer in the first place," I countered.

I could see from Suzie's face that she tried to make sense of my comment, but I never found out if she really grasped my meaning.

Prayers, prayers, and more prayers

Lately, I've had lots of people telling me that they're praying for me, even more frequently than when I decided to stop going to church, or when people find out that I--gasp--don't believe in god.

This prayerfest on my behalf is in reaction to my recent breast cancer diagnosis.

So, at a time when I need and would welcome the support of my friends, they're irritating the heck out of me by telling me that they're "praying for me." Sigh. Although I guess it could be worse; they're not praying to god to hasten my departure for the eternal torture of hell.

But I really am having trouble finding a mentally and emotionally satisfying response to this outpouring of prayers from my friends, plus assorted acquaintances and relatives, especially those who know that I am a non-believer.

How can I tell my friends I think their beliefs are looney-tunes, and not hurt their feelings? But on the other hand, my just smiling and accepting with gratitude their prayer offers feels so wrong.

I appreciate the fact that they think they're doing something extremely important for my benefit--asking their god to re-think this whole cancer thing. But I don't appreciate the fact that my friends think that their engaging in primitive superstitious nonsense on my behalf is something that I would, um, appreciate.

Sometimes I respond to them, "Thanks for thinking of me." But, really, if they are thinking about me, how about giving me a call to cheer me up, instead of sending pleading messages into the void on my behalf one. Calling me to chat really does benefit me; calling god to chat does nothing.

On other occasions, I respond about the offer of prayers, "I guess it can't hurt." But that isn't really true, as my opinion of these friends takes a hit with every mention of prayer. Sometimes I wonder how I can keep being friends with people who truly believe in such silliness as a god who listens and answers special requests for help--except when he doesn't, of course.

But what I really want to say to all my praying friends is: "OK. You obviously believe that you're doing something special and wonderful for me by praying for me, but if you must pray, is there some reason you can't keep the fact that you're praying for me to yourself? Because I'd rather not know that you engage in such craziness."

I guess their telling me that they're praying for me is supposed to comfort me, knowing that help from god is--potentially--if he wills it--on the way. Except if it isn't.

And I have the urge, so far controlled, to grab my friends (one at a time, not en mass) by the shoulders, give them a good shake, and scream, "What is wrong with you?!"

What I also find irritating is my suspicion that if my cancer treatments are successful, my friends will give their god the credit, not my oncologists, surgeon, and other doctors who do exist and provide authentic help.

I long for more rational friends, but rational people seem to be a rarity, vastly outnumbered by those who embrace irrationality.