Don’t say this to your friend whose boyfriend has cancer

by Nora McInerny


When your boyfriend is having his head shaved before emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor, the right thing to say about his shiny new head is probably not “You were going bald anyway.” But that’s what I said, because I am an idiot and because nobody ever knows what to say in awkward, terrible situations.

Aaron laughed, because he had the superhuman ability to laugh at himself, but even today I feel terrible about how that came out. Even though, I mean, I was right.

Since that bizarre Twilight Zone episode of a Halloween night where my boyfriend went from being a normal thirty-two-year-old dude to being a cancer patient, our family has gotten emails from long-lost acquaintances and friends of friends of friends. We have been stopped in restaurants and on the street by total strangers, people who just want to tell us they love our love, that they think of us often and wish us well. Even though this tends to happen when I am out in public wearing no makeup and looking like a drowned sewer rat, that’s a really amazing feeling. It’s been like a never-ending fire hose of love and energy that we get to dance in like sweaty children on a hot summer day, with occasional pauses for someone to instead pelt me in the face with a water balloon.

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