Losing my sh*t in the grocery store

By Amelia

I feel like it’s my job to try to stay chipper and maintain a sense of normalcy in the shadow of Leah’s cancer. I can’t say I do a good job at either of those, but I am functional. That is, I am functional until I walk into a store.

I lose my sh*t every time I go shopping. Every. Single. Time. I’ve cried in the baking aisle at Wegmans, covered my face with my hands in the bulk section at the Green Star Coop, blubbered amidst the vegetables in the Trumansburg Shur Save, and wept openly by the shower curtains at Target.

The first time it happened was right after Leah’s diagnosis. Her 48th birthday was only a few days away, and I wanted to buy her some slippers. As I walked past the women’s clothing in Target, I saw some nice pajamas that buttoned up the front and I thought, Leah won’t able to pull a shirt over her head after her surgery. Oh my god – she has cancer. I struggled to hold back the tears. I then realized Leah would need a bathrobe since she might not be wearing street clothes for a while; my eyes started to well over as I chose a dark grey one. I pictured her in bed, weak and in pain, propped up by pillows, so I also grabbed one of those body support pillows (ironically called ‘husbands’) for her to lean back on, then stopped to wipe my eyes. As I piled each gift into my arms  – I hadn’t thought to take a shopping cart on the way in –  I realized that I wasn’t birthday shopping, I was Cancer Shopping. By the time I remembered the slippers I’d come in for, I was sobbing and dragging my Cancer Shopping purchases to the register like Steve Martin in The Jerk. (All I needs is this ashtray. And this paddleball game. And this lamp.  And this thermos. And this chair.)

Now it happens every time. Every shopping list is loaded: Zantac for Leah’s stomach, vegetables to sneak into her chicken broth, bottled water because they are working on our water main again. Paint from Lowes for the kitchen at the new building? I worry that we’ll never open the new restaurant. Batteries for the lights in the gingerbread house that I entered in a contest? Leah won’t be able to go to the reception if she has neutropenia. Warm hats? Cancer. Sorbet? Cancer. Christmas cards? Cancer.

Leah keeps asking me exactly why I fall apart in stores. It’s a hard question to answer. There is something about walking into a normal place filled with normal people doing normal stuff that shines a spotlight on the cancer and how fucked up this whole thing is. Sometimes they are talking and laughing like everything is fine. Sometimes they are yelling at their kids for something unimportant. Sometimes they are oblivious and they block the whole damn aisle while they stare at the peanut butter for way too long.

I don’t remember what normal feels like. I buy extra Kleenex, and raspberry juice for Leah because she says she can taste it even after chemo. I hope cancer never feels normal.


4 responses

  1. Big virtual hugs!!! You cry when you need to. Where ever you need to. Immensely strong and loyal and dedicated and loving people cry. Angry people cry. Happy people cry. It’s okay to cry . We get you both. And are so happy you are in this crusade together. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to this so much. My dad passed away in July after a very short (less than three month) battle with pancreatic cancer. A very patient person, even still I find it hard to wait in lines and have been reduced to tears, sandwiched in a crowd of strangers. Once dragged shopping after his diagnosis, I was compelled to sit on the floor near the socks as my girlfriend was in the dressing room trying something on. She came out to find me rocking as random passers-by stared on and asked what was wrong… I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to hold it together all the time, if I feel like I need to break down, fine. I hope you grant yourself the same freedom; do what you feel you need to do. You aren’t alone. I’ve been following your journey and sending healing and love to you both. Heather


  3. Thinking of you both. Thank you for sharing. My dad died Christmas day last year after pancreatic diagnosis but something else got him…and I fucking hate going into stores and hearing music and I cry at anything at all, including pictures of people in distress online, holiday wrap, and things I would have bought him. You both are strong and will be well. Love and warmth to you both.


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