Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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Don’t Pity Me

I see you staring from across the room with that look of profound pity. You look away quickly when I feel your gaze.

And you. I know you had no intention of shopping for hats until you saw me quickly slip off my scarf, plop one on and check myself in the mirror. I already had seen both of you across REI looking in my direction and whispering. Suddenly you were next to me.

Yes, I’m a woman and I’m bald under my scarf and breastless under my sweater. I had cancer (I refer to cancer in the past-tense even though I have lots of treatment to go).

If you only had been brave enough to say something instead of staring and whispering I could spare you suffering the emotion of pity. I might even inspire you.

While many things about cancer and its treatment suck, the looks on your faces are the worst. I know that the way I look right now make me the poster person for cancer, but your stares serve only make fleeting my moments of feeling normalcy.

I much prefer you try empathy. All you have to do is ask.

Today I had a beautiful encounter while I was out to lunch with Michelle and Carol. We had hardly been seated when a kind man approached our table and leaned into me.

“Do you have cancer?” he asked as he took my hand.

As I’ve said before “it takes one to know one.”

As it turns out, Andy is famous in Fresno and beyond, and not just because he’s one of the city’s top commercial real estate associates. He turned his brain cancer into a cause – talking publicly against the cell phones he believed caused his cancer in the days when realtors lived with them practically growing from their heads.

He sat down with us and we shared stories about treatments and clinical trials, prognosis, alternative therapies and the power of positive attitudes.

Andy’s cancer is Stage IV, which means I need all of you who are doing such an effective job praying for me to add Andy to your list. He has been in several clinical trials and has kept it at bay for three years and counting!

I believe in miracles because they happen to me every day, and meeting someone like Andy, an inspiration for perseverance, is one in a long list.

So to you who would simply stare take heart: I have taken charge of my disease and my life is far more meaningful than it was before cancer because I make every moment count. In fact, my life has never been richer.

So admire my resolve, respect my resilience or even rejoice that it’s not you. But do not pity me. That’s an emotion best reserved for people who do not know how to be grateful for what the universe throws their way.

8 Responses to “Don’t Pity Me”

  • Elaine Hoover:

    I believe in miracles. I believe in you. Andy has been added to the Circle of Caring!

  • Linda:

    Pity is certainly not what us Tracie blog junkies feel. I am sure that I am not speaking only for myself when I say we feel admiration, respect, educated empathy and prayerful, but pity – never!

  • arlene:

    Go get ‘em Tracie! We are cheering for YOU!

  • Leslee Hamilton:

    Hi Tracie – I’ve been thinking of you recently – triggered by separate conversations regarding Calera wines and the planned solar array in Panoche Valley – and asked Arlene if she knew what you were up to.

    She emailed me this link tonight and I’ve just finished reading all your posts. I’m so glad to know that you are on the road to recovery. Thanks for being so forthright in your blog. Your formidable spirit shines through.

    There are some interesting stories to be written about access to health care as treatment alternatives evolve – $500 pills???!!!

    This aging process is rough. We just spent some time this weekend with Jerri-Ann’s 50-yr-old cousin, who was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer 3.5 years ago and is beating the odds. He’s had great care at Cedars Sinai in LA and a formidable patient advocate team in JA and his sister.

    Speaking of advocates, please let me know if there’s anything we can do to help you – transport, company at Stanford, etc.


  • brenda:

    That last paragraph should be reproduced and shared across the world. Print it on shirts, heck, make hallmark cards out of it!

  • carol:

    I felt the radiant energy and love and felt blessed to witness a moment that only you two could truly share!

  • Lynn Arthur:

    Amen Sister!!! You are an inspiration to all that know you, and I will forever be blessed to have you in my life… Next time someone is staring, walk up and ask them if they have any questions or comments. I know you can teach them something…lol!! Love you lots,

  • Eunice:

    “I see you staring from across the room with that look of profound pity. You look away quickly when I feel your gaze.”
    I completely empathize with this statement, although for different reasons. Thanks for writing this article.

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