I must admit, there’s a little bit of an exhilarating feeling around you when you get cancer. All of a sudden, people are making a fuss over you, making you feel special, checking up on you and really giving you a great deal of attention. It probably sounds strange, but it almost makes it an exciting thing. It’s easy to understand how some people can get addicted to this attention and consequently end up being stuck in this new cancer life.
I get it. I mean, your life changes so much. How can you just go back to the life that you lived before cancer? The cancer community can really be somewhat of a comfort zone for many people who are not easily able to adjust to these massive life changes. Within this community, there is a sense of belonging and understanding that makes people feel secure.
For a period of time I think I was definitely in that cancer zone. I felt comfortable talking about my cancer because it was all I knew at that time. But over time, it started to wear on me and I was fed up with talking about my sickness. I wasn’t one of those people who wanted the focus to be ‘me as a sick person’. Not me, I was a fit and healthy person. For me, cancer got in the way of me living my life. I was too young to be branded a cancer victim and I wasn’t ready for the different way people now perceived me.
Whether I liked it or not however I was a ‘cancer victim’ and had to work out how to deal with that. For a long time (and even still now occasionally) I was greeted with a slight head tilt and soft concerned voice saying, “How are you?” accompanied by a pitying face. I would reply completely upbeat by saying how fabulous I was. After many greetings like this, it struck me that I now had that ‘cancer victim’ title. This was frustrating because I really didn’t want sympathy or pity from anyone. I wanted to move on with my life.
I definitely think there is a healthy grieving period where you need to relive what has happened to you because you are still in a state of disbelief and it is only really just dawning on you the reality of how your life has changed. But I think there needs to come a time where you step away from being the cancer victim and be you again. If you’re not careful, you can become stuck living in the past and forever reliving your cancer experience. This can be toxic and hard to move on from for some.
I think that’s why I relied on my friends during this time rather than a support group. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see the need for a support group of people who can completely understand what you are going through at the time but my fear was what happened once my cancer was over. I didn’t want to talk about cancer all the time or relive my story anymore. I wanted my identity back. While my friends may not have always completely understood what I had been through, they were always willing to try and they kept me involved in ‘life’ that was still well and truly going on despite the fact that I had cancer.
I know I have mentioned this previously but the grieving experienced with cancer is similar to grieving the loss of a loved one. With cancer or any illness for that matter, life as you knew it has died and people process this at different rates. Some take a lot longer than others to heal and everyone has a right to grieve at their own pace. Cancer experiences and deaths can vary in levels of impact and trauma but sadly, at some point, one has to make the decision to carry on. But taking that step is not always easy. It is hard to let go.
Taking the plunge into the unknown and letting go of cancer can be scary but enlivening. Yes, life has changed, life is different but setting yourself free from cancer opens you up to a new you. And that’s exciting.
I don’t really know exactly when I began to let go (and it is a gradual process) but all I knew is that I wanted to start being asked different things about me, not about my cancer. I was sick of it, yet I write this blog. Is that irony or what? But in all seriousness, cancer doesn’t have to be your life forever. It is but a comma in the sentence of your life.
A colleague of mine (who’d had his fair share of sickness), did a great favour for me when I got sick. He encouraged me to get back working, even throughout my treatment. I did half days and only worked when I felt well enough but it really made a difference for me to keep my foot in the door and feel connected to life without cancer. It allowed me to feel normal at times and that’s also important. I am very grateful for that gentle nudge because it helped me fit back into life that bit easier. Some people asked me why on earth I was working but I needed it to keep my sanity and it was a form of escapism from my cancer.
I don’t write this to tell people that they need to get over their cancer experience and move on as soon as it’s happened. You have the right to take time to process and grieve. Even now, people will be at all different stages of their journey and there is no haste in recovering your body/mind. I simply write this for you to monitor yourself in your journey of acceptance and set yourself goals to ensure you don’t hold on for too long. Eventually, as sad as it sounds, if you are recovered, people get sick of hearing about your cancer and I can guarantee it, you will get sick of it too.
When the time comes, be courageous and let go. It may lead you into the unknown and you may scared and uncertain for a while, waiting for the ‘new world order’. The life that you had before doesn’t exist. It is a completely new phase and that in itself is daunting. Your self-confidence could be low, your body image has changed, your view on life has changed and your working life may also have changed. But if you don’t choose to move on at some point, you will become toxic to yourself and those around you.
I have been in all stages of the journey and am grateful that I was able to move on with relative ease. With letting go, I have begun an exciting new journey of life that has a completely new perspective and purpose. It has led me here, to you and I am excited about whatever lies ahead. Now, I am always grateful for each day and I accept that around the corner, there will be obstacles. I know that with cancer behind me, I will have the strength to take on anything and that’s a wonderful feeling.
Today, I show you some fabulous and afforable jewellery options by fashion accessory company and lifestyle brand Adorne. They are a wonderful brand whose mission is to empower and inspire women to express their unique self every day. I think this aligns perfectly to Leave Me Breastless and I am certain that each and every one of you will find a unique piece of jewellery that’s right for you in one of their amazing stores around the country or online. Here are some of my favourites for distracting the eye from the breastless chest.
Have a wonderful week.
I am breastless and beautiful.
Love, Gen x