Just because cancer didn't kill me doesn't mean I survived it.
Let me follow this up by saying that this is new information for me. Until recently, I thought it was a part of my life that was done and dusted. You'd think my "Cancer Survivor
" t-shirt would be torn and tattered, having worn it for 20 years, wouldn't you?
Yet, I very seldom wear it. In fact, it's tucked away, good as new, in my figuratively-speaking drawer, ready for special occasions such as sentimental blog posts or social media updates when awareness campaigns require.
The truth is that I find it extremely uncomfortable to wear… tight around the neck area and the sleeves are too restrictive. If I had to compare it to something, I'd imagine it feels more like a straight-jacket than it does a comfy tee. It strangles me.
And, if I'm going to be completely honest with you, I have another confession to make: I DO have a comfy tee and it says "Cancer Victim."
This is new information, too! The thought that I have a victim mentality leaves me horrified. I believe in the Law of Attraction, abundance, the power of positive thinking. I'm supposed to have my shizzle together! Except that I don't.
It's obvious to any outsider looking in on my life that, by all conventional standards, my life is a mess! An uncomfortable mess that I had grown comfortable with up until now. Thankfully, because of everything I believe in, I know that the only way to change my life is to change my way of thinking. Horrified as I am, I know that fessing up is the first step to reclaiming my personal power.
It's interesting that my most uncomfortable truth slips on like my most comfortable bra because it's the bra that first got my knickers in a knot. You see, October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it did not go down well with me.
First, there's the focus on the phase "cancer awareness" that goes against everything I believe in. According to the Law of Attraction (and quantum physics, for those who prefer scientific proof) whatever we focus on flourishes. Do we need breast cancer to flourish even more? But that's a rant for another day. For today, I need to face up to the fact that I harbor some resentment towards breast cancer survivors.
Don't get me wrong, there is no better or worse kind of cancer. Any person who faces their own mortality is irrevocably changed. Every family is affected. I have compassion and I completely understand. But why the resentment for breast cancer survivors, then? It started with an article.
A brave young breast cancer survivor wrote a poignant story about her decision to wear a bikini on the beach that summer, exposing her scars
and all the fears that went along with it. "Lucky for her that she gets to choose!" said my inner bitch.
Wait, what? I was... angry?
Yes. It turned out that I was.
I was angry because I don't have that choice
. As a four-time nasopharyngeal cancer survivor, my scars are visible on my face for all to see.
I was angry because I don't have the luxury of choosing when or how to play out my big reveal.
I was angry because on most days, I still couldn't love who I saw in the mirror. I was angry because I still live with the physical and emotional side-effects of surgery and radiation
every day. I was angry because I haven't been brave enough to get over it. I was angry because I had allowed silent anger and self-loathing to stop me in my tracks
for 20 years.
The funny thing about anger is that if you ride it out in that moment, if you allow yourself to feel as angry as you've ever felt x100, and let the sadness and the shame and the fear behind the anger show its face, it makes way for amazing clarity.
And my clarity went something along these lines: If self-love is the key to unlocking abundance
– whether love, health, wealth, or happiness – it completely explains why my life is a mess. The only way to "fix" my life is to learn to love myself.
Right now, I don't know how.
Chances are I never really knew how, so I shouldn't be blaming cancer for that. But I'm willing to learn. I'm excited to get to know myself. I'm looking forward to seeing myself emerge as the beautiful, confident woman who has her shizzle together on most days.
For now, my first step forward is to put on my t-shirt. It says "Surviving Cancer."
A big thank you to those brave breast cancer survivors who share their painful stories. Thank you for being the mirror to my darkness. I love and appreciate you. When we find the strength to bare our pain, it gives others the strength to bear their pain.
Why do you think it is hard for some people to claim their "survivor" title? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Thomas Kelley