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A fruitcake, cup of eggnog, and a variety of presents surround a computer screen with a videochat icon.

There’s No Place Like ZOOM for the Holidays

Jim-Bob Williams is a therapeutic humorist who works to see how humor can be applied to life’s problems. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020. He reveals how people suddenly became generous upon learning of his diagnosis, and how he reacted to their abrupt change in behavior.

Qualifying as high-risk

One of the best parts about prostate cancer is qualifying as high-risk in the event of COVID. Skipping out on family gatherings has never been more easy, altruistic, or lucrative.

“I’d love to visit, Aunt Gertrude, but I have to avoid crowds. Would you mind picking up something for me from the drive-through? I have to be extra careful now due to the (pause for dramatic effect) cancer.

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"Perhaps I could check in by ZOOM during halftime of the Lions game. Did you hear Al Roker has prostate cancer, too? Once people heard I had it, everybody jumps on the bandwagon, don’t they? Blood drive this week? Well, maybe I should wait…need to keep up my strength, you know.”

Getting treated differently

You do get treated differently once you let people know about your cancer. People who wouldn’t give you the time of day pre-diagnosis are suddenly understanding and generous.

There’s an entire Netflix series called “Sick Note” about a man who takes advantage of this. Spoiler alert – in addition to Rupert Grint and Nick Frost, the show contains adult situations, strong language, and cynicism.

It’s awkward when people act like you’re going to keel over in the next few minutes. You may be only Stage I, but they act like you’ve heard the cue for “Exit, Stage Right.” Well, send that fat lady back to the green room. And keep her away from the snacks.

Being offered favors and support

Sometimes they buy you coffee, mow your lawn, or clean your gutters. I don’t really need the help now. But what the heck, if it makes them act like better human beings, it’s for their own good. If I knew how big a change it could make in some people’s behavior, I might have tried to get it sooner.

They might think they’ll end up making it through the Pearly Gates because of their good deed -- and who am I to trample their belief system? Religious tolerance can have material benefits in this world.

You have become the Man with an Expiration Date. You had one before the diagnosis, too. There were infinite possibilities then, but now you’ve got an odds-on favorite for the “Cause of Death” space on your future death certificate.

Kind of like when the field of presidential candidates narrows from 16 to 2, you can see the outcome a little more clearly. Hello DraftKings? I want $100 on prostate cancer.

A different kind of holiday letter

This also gives you the opportunity to write the ultimate holiday newsletter. I mean every year, it’s the same-old, same-old about your vacations and how the kids are doing. Give them something worth reading. This year I’m writing:

We’ve had a new addition to the family, a little bundle of joy that my doctor found in August during a digital rectal examination. Well, it felt more like an analog examination with a literal digit. It’s a “Gift of the Magi,” that even O. Henry could not have imagined. Maybe the O was for “Oncologist.”

They’ll be sending over fruitcakes and eggnog in no time. Happy Holidays, even if they’re virtual.

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