Well, Lisa, I suspect you got a lot of blank stares because what you said is so utterly stupid that the staff was simply caught off guard, and was trying to be polite. You know, instead of saying, “Is that a joke? Are you making a joke? Or is the chemo kicking in? Because what you said was pretty damned stupid. Oh, wait, you’ve got cancer. Sorry, what I meant to say was that you’re really funny and profound.”
If I was in the hospital with someone suffering from cancer, and they said the same thing, I’d smile politely because that’s what you do when someone is suffering and you’re trying to be comforting. I would not, however, repeat the observation around the water-cooler the next day, because it’s clearly the rambling of someone in pain. Not the sort of thing to remember and smirk quietly to myself over.
There was a minor Woody Allen movie a few years ago called Crimes and Misdemeanors. In it, Allen is making a documentary about a comedy show host (Alan Alda). Alda plays the guy as a crass boor, and in one bit of documentary footage he talks about a writer he doesn’t want to work with anymore. “I don’t care if he’s got cancer, he doesn’t ‘write funny’!”
Now, we’re all supposed to think, Oh, that’s just terrible, what a terrible man. The thing is though, he’s right. We’ve all known folks who’ve suffered with cancer, and I have every sympathy imaginable, believe you me. They deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Having cancer, however, doesn’t by itself make you a genius, or a saint, or a stellar wit. It can focus you, and those around you, into truly looking at each other and appreciating each other, and it might prod you toward improving your mind or your skills or otherwise pushing yourself into new things. But having cancer doesn’t automatically make your jokes funny, and it doesn’t give the guy who writes about you any talent.