Seems like such a simple question. Sort of like "how are you?" How to answer. There are lots of ways to answer this question but generally people just say "Great."
It is a good question and we ask it as a matter of course. As the person answering we always makes a split second judgement. Do we share the reality of what is happening or do we just say... "Fine" ?. Most of the time we say fine. It is easier than the rest of explanation. Usually people don't want to really know and we don't have the energy to dump on them and then take our energy and try to make them feel better about how bad it is.
It is always nice to ask and I would never ever suggest you don't because that can be awkward. On more than one occasion there was a moment when I mentioned Mary-Elizabeth and people were physically relieved and stumbled over a few words that when translated meant: Oh Thank-God I didn't' want to ask if she was alive.
Cancer Parents are not the only ones who do this. There are so many things in people's lives they don't talk about. Deep disappointments, loss, pain, fears and simple terror.
Our brains help us cope. I was listening to NPR and a doctor from Pakistan was explaining how his people coped with constant bombings like the one's in Boston. Their country has been under a sort of self attack for decades. He said you just move on. You know it is there, you go on with life. You never forget but it is not a life stopper.
We see kids with no hair, braces on their legs from, ports, piics, catheters into their brains. Their haggard parents have given up jobs, and careers and marriages and any semblance of normal life. But, faces are covered with smiles and gentle words are said to the children. We know how hard it is to have a cancer kid a CK but we also know that it could be worse. We all move on and make the best of each moment because we know it could be a lot worse.
"So how are things going? "
"Tell me more.".............
or buy me a cup of coffee, or offer to take out the garbage or.......