Waiting and Overthinking

No results back yet from the biopsy. Still waiting waiting waiting.

Something I’ve noticed at my last couple doctor’s appointments: some of my smalltalk circuits have shorted, notably the ones where folks ask me any variant of “How are you?”

My normal, reflexive, societally ingrained response is, “Fine” or “Doin’ okay,” but these days, I can’t seem to say that. It’s a lie. I’m NOT fine, not okay. But if I say, “Meh” or “I’ve been better,” people frequently follow-up with,  “What’s wrong?” And I don’t really want to go into the details of my situation every time someone exchanges pleasantries with me.

It’s particularly awkward with health care folks. Obviously, that question is essential for doctors and nurse practitioners to ask, but when the phlebotomist drawing my blood or the nurse taking my temperature asks it, I find myself flailing for a noncommittal answer that won’t invite follow-up.

I’m overthinking it, I know.

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10 Responses to Waiting and Overthinking

  1. Liam Fisher says:

    I go with “pretty good given the situation” – the medical people are used to it.

  2. Robert Santa says:

    Maybe “the same as yesterday” would work. I’m assuming you’re really talking about the non-medical people. The medical ones have heard it all; I bet if you wanted to share with them they would understand and might even be able to help a little.

  3. Allison Stein says:

    My default answer: “Any day that I’m still walking, working, and breathing is a good day.” Hang in there.

  4. How about “better since the exorcism” or, “the voices tell me that everything is just fine”?

  5. I like Patrick’s, but I think we should all come up with alternative answers for you.

    “Were you asking in the second person, plural? If so, we’re all fine. If not, which of us did you mean?”

  6. Amy Herring says:

    Tough issue. As well as can be expected or not so good both invite questions. you need a polite way of saying, don’t ask and I’m not telling. how about a subtle growl?

  7. kimberlycreates says:


    I once debated telling my life story to a guy who was trying to pick me up, deliberately accentuating the negative parts to make him leave me alone. I’d like to think I could be cavalier and have “fun” with it by saying uncomfortable things, but I don’t know how I’d really react if I were in your shoes. Depending on my mood, I might say, “I have cancer, how are you?” or “I’m not dead yet.” I can have an admitted dark sense of humor though. On the lighter, more positive side, “Better than I deserve” or something like that is a sweet one I’ve heard other people say. Much love to you, sweetie.

  8. gordsellar says:

    Eugie, I’m really sorry to hear you’re going through this. I don’t know you well but my heart goes out to you.

    I’ve never been through anything like this, so while I’ve had family members who fought cancer, I don’t know really what it’s like from the inside.

    I can say that having known a few doctors very closely, whatever you say is fine, as long as you’re not attacking them personally or blaming them for your illness. (They’re even used to hearing that, but it’s not fun for them.) Beyond that, any response is fair game, and they’ve mostly heard it all. From what I understand, when they ask it’s partly just about rapport-building/service–you have to say something to the person when you stick a needle in them–but also partly about gauging your emotional/mental state. (ie. To see whether you need a psycheval/access to counseling.) Any answer is the right answer, in other words… even, “I’m thinking I might have hit bottom just now,” is the right answer, because it gets you the care you need.

    I’d like to think stoicism and black humor would be my response, but I know from less-serious health emergencies that I’m a cringing, whining panic-stricken wimp. Is there any solace in hearing that you’re doing better than I imagine I would be doing?

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