A couple of weeks ago, a genuinely kind, concerned person asked me how I was. That seemingly innocuous question hurtled me into utter confusion. I found myself simply staring mutely until the moment was interrupted. Since receiving a cancer diagnosis last August, I have found that how are you is a complicated question.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I could easily answer when asked how I was. But, after getting the cancer diagnosis, I realized that I am not confident answering that question. Following surgery, a series of tests determined if there was any visible cancer remaining. In the meantime, I had no idea how I was. That is when I realized that for me how are you is a complicated question.

Since beginning chemotherapy, I have had no diagnostic tests. Chemotherapy obscures the results of many tests used to diagnose cancer, so I do not know if chemo is doing what we believe it will or not. I trust in my educated and experienced oncologist to make decisions he knows will result in the best outcome for me, but I still do not know how I am.

Every week or two, I have blood tests to see how my body is responding to chemo. But, in between times, I may feel perfectly well–at least well for a person on chemo–yet my blood work will show low results, which means that my body is not really doing as well as it should be.

Because I do not know the answer to how are you, recently I asked my oncologist how I am doing and explained how I had not known to answer the question when people asked me. I am grateful for his response. After telling me it was nobody’s business how I was doing, he further shared, with wisdom and economy of words, “Nobody knows how they are doing when they are on chemotherapy.” I am going to keep his response in mind when asked that so very complicated question and simply respond that I do not know, which I hope will be an improvement over a blank stare.