A little honesty and laughter never did any harm for our mental health. Here are a few universal things everyone who goes through cancer can relate to. Maybe this will make you feel less alone. Pass it along to someone who gets what cancer is like (or doesn’t and can help them relate!).
1. Suddenly everyone you know knows someone who’s experienced cancer
“My mom had cancer. “My friend went through cancer recently.” However good the intent, it’s a lot to take in. Our empathy for your experience combined with the shock of the news of our own cancer diagnosis is a little much to juggle. Is your loved one okay? Wait, maybe I don’t want to know, because it is me now, too. But it’s not really registering yet.
2. There’s a good week when it seems like everyone loves me. And then I’m ghosted.
After a diagnosis and it gets made known, we’re flooded with love from all parts of our lives – from people we actually hold near to high school acquaintances we never really talked to. Turns out, everybody wants to show their care and appreciation. It’s really sweet (and somewhat overwhelming) until you’re ghosted by the same people when the shit hits the fan and cancer gets real.
3. It feels like the doctors think I have a P.h.D in Medicine
What are these terms? Hold up, what do I have? Oh, that’s what I need to do? Okay. What’s that? On and on it goes.
4. Why am I the only one keeping my cool?
After a diagnosis or during cancer treatment, while we’re busy taking things in stride and checking off all the checkups and treatments and life admin, it seems like everyone around us is getting more worked up about the cancer situation than we are. We’re winning the Most Composed Award and spend our time calming others down about our situation instead. Weirdest role reversal, huh?
5. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”
It’s a kind and genuine sentiment that many people feel and we really appreciate the effort and extended kindness. But on the receiving end during cancer, we a.) often don’t really know what it is you actually can do to help, and b.) don’t have the energy or capacity to project manage our lives above the other demands cancer adds to your life. Maybe you can tell me what you’d like to do and I can say yes or no?
6. Curiosity about my new bald look
For everyone who loses their hair because of cancer treatment, there’s a sense of dread, especially when you’re in the shower and feel yourself losing it. Then, an odd curiosity about it all takes shape. What will I look like? Would’ve not necessarily have chosen this look but I may rock it? Tips on skincare and makeup here, if you’re interested.
7. Is pity the new tone of voice?
For some reason, everyone who talks to us – from the moment we get diagnosed – gets this upward and softer pitch, this looking down of the eyes or cocking of the head. Pity is detected in the overwhelming majority of conversations. Can someone talk to me normally, please?
8. How did I end up here and what do I do now?
A general lostness of life and direction – past, present and future.
9. Will it ever go back to normal?
If we make it through cancer treatment and am cancer-free, recurrence now enters the picture, as well as all of the side effects of cancer and treatment, physical and mental. Everyone else is hoorah-ing but I’m not there yet. Anyone else?
10. I overcame the cancer. Let me go taste life now. For real.
Facing the possibility of death in the face so tangibly, as cancer forces you to do, reminds you that the little things we used to worry over are not worth our time. It’s like a fresh set of glasses has been put on and our worry-threshold has upped a notch. Before cancer, we were less conscious of the gift of life. Now, it’s time to make the most of it and take it by storm.
Want to find others who can relate to what cancer is like? Connect with others who get it on the War On Cancer app.