June 8th, 2016
| Survivor: Breast Cancer
There I go again, talking about my cancer. Did I interrupt your story of work, your family, your kids, your traffic and your day to reference my cancer journey and subsequent survivorship? Oops.
There I go again, having to put you on hold to answer a call from my treatment facility only to return to you having hung up or agitated that I placed you on hold. Oops. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to talk about my life-long maintenance courtesy of my cancer journey. You’re right, let’s go back to what you had for dinner.
Contrary to what you may believe, I do not talk about these things just to remind you that I am a cancer survivor, or because I am looking for sympathy. I talk about these things because this is my life now. Cancer changed my life, and this is my new normal. I cannot ignore my cancer just because you are around.
There you go again, rolling your eyes, sucking your teeth or breathing heavy each and every time I discuss my cancer journey. It hurts my feelings but I'm a warrior, I can take it. I can take all reactions and interactions I have at dinners, business meetings, phone calls. During these interactions, I genuinely ask you the following, “How are you doing? What's going on? How's your family?” I wait and listen intently for your answer. Yet on the receiving end of it, I never receive even an utterance of someone asking how I am doing.
What I realize is that you don't want to ask me how I am doing because you are afraid of my truth, annoyed with my truth, sick and tired of hearing my truth. So with each encounter I watch the different avoidance tactics you use to keep me from talking about my cancer journey.
Shame on you for not taking the time to listen or ask "How are you doing?" For years a cancer patient’s life is turned upside down- for me it was at least 2-5 years. All that happens during that time can change a personality for eternity, like it did for me. In certain aspects it makes us stronger, but it definitely makes us more emotional and empathetic as well. So on the days when we don't feel our best, or we are waiting for a test result or having moderate to severe pain, and the mention of our cancer journey sends you into a "flight" mentality, think twice. We see you each and every time. Please excuse us if we aren't able to control our thoughts, it's not for sympathy, it's what our new normal has become and it has changed our lives drastically. Please be understanding of this.
I won't apologize on behalf of all the patients and survivors that discuss our cancer journey "too much," because there is no such thing. No, we aren't looking for sympathy, it's just our new life. Just as we will continue to listen to all of your stories and ask you how you are doing, we expect you to give us the same courtesy. In no way do we want you to feel uncomfortable about our cancer journey. We are warriors. And trust me, having cancer is much more uncomfortable.
Have you ever been mistaken as "looking for sympathy" when discussing your cancer? How did you handle that? Share in the comments below.
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