I May Have Done Cancer Wrong
Every day I’m reminded that everyone is unique. We all hear/see information and respond to it in different ways. For example, I’ve read someone’s minutes and wondered if we were in the same meeting. I’ve looked at a poster with a motivational saying on it and thought it was apt, while someone else looked at the same poster and referred to it as BS (her words/letters not mine). I’ve thought something was funny that someone else found sad.
Since I don’t want to believe that I’m a sick individual, I prefer to think that people can see and hear the same thing and interpret it totally differently because we are unique individuals and already have preconceived ideas and expectations about any given topic. Once we have an opinion, we look for reinforcement that our opinion is correct. For example, if someone believes there are a lot more people driving red cars this year, that person is more likely to notice red cars than someone who believes that there are more blue cars on the road.
The same is true for cancer. Each person has a unique take on the experience. There is no right or wrong way to handle a diagnosis and the subsequent treatments, but sometimes I get the sense that I didn’t do cancer right. I didn’t respond to the experience the way that most people may have expected.
I didn’t respond by getting angry, crying or yelling that life was NOT fair. I never said, “Why me?” Instead I thought, “Why not me?” There was nothing I'd done that made me less deserving of a cancer diagnosis than the next person. In fact, no one deserves cancer. No one knows the exact combination of circumstances that will result in a cancer diagnosis. All we can do is take the steps necessary to minimize the risk of cancer, but there are no guarantees.
I wasn't devastated when I received my cancer diagnosis. Instead, I just accepted the news and was glad I finally knew what I was dealing with. I was almost clinical. My focus was more on next steps and getting rid of the cancer than on me and my feelings about the situation.
While I didn’t find cancer funny, I did see the humour in things. This is just who I am and what comes naturally. For example, when I had my mastectomy, I said I was a half-rack dishwasher. I referred to surgery, chemo and radiation as the party-pack of treatments. I once told an intern that I should have had my breast removed ages ago because I got so many compliments on the scar.
Yes, I actually said these things.
No one expected to hear these types of comments; however, there are women who have had breast cancer who will think my comments are extremely funny. There are people who haven’t had cancer who will feel guilty for laughing at my tongue-in-cheek comments. There are also women who have had or currently have breast cancer who will believe that my comments are totally inappropriate and offensive. They may even believe that my comments minimize the seriousness of a cancer diagnosis. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I recognize that cancer is serious business. I realize that I'm not home-free just because I’ve finished my treatments. The thought of a recurrence is never far away and I believe that I won’t truly know if I’m a cancer survivor until I die from something unrelated. Every new symptom (for example, back pain or persistent cough) makes me wonder if my cancer has returned in a new location (metastasized). In fact, I could live at the doctor’s office if I went there every time I felt fear. I could also delay a diagnosis of a recurrence because I don't go to see the doctor. It’s almost a no-win situation. It’s not easy to find the right balance.
However, instead of living in fear, I choose to associate laughter with cancer as you can see in my website name (www.laughterandcancer.com) and the name of my book (When Cancer Takes Flight…A humourous look at the turbulence of breast cancer). I choose to look for the positive in things. I choose to laugh.
In addition to learning that laughter works for me, I've learned that:
Each cancer is unique just like the responses to it. There is no one answer when it comes to determining what's the right thing to say and do. The best we can do is to be patient with each other and recognize that everyone is different. There really is no one right way to deal with cancer.
Hey, maybe I didn't do cancer wrong.
6/21/2017 08:43:23 am
I love reading your blogs.I was one that was devistated..and cried.
6/21/2017 09:32:46 am
Like you, Debbie, I reacted very similarly to my initial diagnosis and took a clinical approach to the news and never thought "Why me?" I chose to embrace diagnosis and treatment as something I could influence the outcome by working the plan...doing my part. I laughed about the things I did and said, even though mine was a very difficult journey with many stays at "The Grand River Suites" and unexpected challenges. This was my unique journey. Support of family and friends and lots of laughter were also what played a positive role in my recovery. Taking care of your physical as well as emotional well-being is key, by surrounding yourself with positive energy.
6/21/2017 09:56:42 am
I like you take on things. When I had my surgery I asked the doctor I'd my breast would look like the Death Star. Then when he said he was taking my case to the tumour board I called them the council of elrond.
6/21/2017 10:41:48 am
Love it, I make people laugh also, life's to short to be grumpy,
6/21/2017 12:12:25 pm
Thank you! I love this! I did both! I cried and was very clinical at the same time. We found humor in almost every part of the journey. When I found out I was triple negative on my birthday, I responded with "of course I am", "why not?". Then had a quick cry, then enjoyed the rest of our vacation!
6/27/2017 10:39:12 pm
Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment. It's nice to know that I'm not alone. Maybe the difference for each of us is that we are choosing to be positive and find the humour in things rather than doing it because we are being told to do it. Thanks for making this one of my top blog posts.
6/28/2017 08:12:39 am
Thank you for sharing your take on Cancer ! How true we all react so differently. Like you , I chose to tackle my fight with a "you've got this" attitude. For me this made all the difference! I remember coming home from the hospital with a catheter (bladder cancer) and saying, now I can pee like a man. I found this very funny. But others didn't understand my humour in the situation.
8/7/2017 11:13:55 pm
Love, love This! It's exactly how I feel! I even named the tumor Bill. Ha ha! All my friends started using my hashtag, #cancerbillisgoingdown. Thank you for writing and sharing these blogs!
1/13/2019 11:14:13 am
Your take is similar to how I reacted and thank you for sharing!. At first, I was 'hey, I'm not supposed to be here' - every. single. person. in my husband's family has died of cancer. My family - Looooongevity, as in 103 and zero cancer! I marked the date of my unilateral mastectomy as 'unicorn day', which took some explaining to my 9-yr-old granddaughter! As a nurse, I became task-oriented and just took it on. Even watched a video of a mastectomy. My recovery has been totally (thank goodness!) uneventful and a month out from reconstruction, back to the gym and the pool. For now. Always knowing 'it' is lurking.
1/13/2019 11:55:39 am
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love your story.
1/13/2019 09:28:35 pm
I also believe that everyone's journey is different. When they discovered a second primary the next year (2006) my surgical decision was instant. I don't miss 'em a bit. To quote one of my dragon boat paddlin' pals, "I gave the girls the pink slip because they called in sick too often".
1/14/2019 04:48:27 am
Picture it. No family history of cancer in the family, and especially no breast cancer (I had to apologize to all the females in my family😰). Scroll back to 2006, my sister dies of cancer at the age of 62; dx at 61. 2011 my brother dies of cancer at the age of 62; dx at 61. 2017, I get dx with cancer at the age of 61. Talk about a mini freak out for me. It’s like, hey, is there an expiration date of 62 or something?!!! I’m 62 now, and I’ve never been more excited about reaching 63 later this year!! I certainly was aghast over my dx but never thought, why me? I just thanked God that He answered an “out of the blue” prayer I suddenly prayed 4 months prior (for no apparent reason one morning while showering, “Lord, if I have cancer in my body, will you please bring it to light and remove it?” Well, 4 months later I’m at an insurance required school physical; all is going fine. Palpable breast exam turned out fine. As an after thought, the doctor casually looks over my records and says, “it’s been two years since your last mammogram; how about scheduling one within the next four months?” And, out of my mouth pops, “why not today?” “Impossible, there’s a waiting list of about three weeks but I can call back to radiology to see how fast we can get you in.” Guess what? They had a cancellation just minutes before! I got in that day! I sat, waiting my turn, saying, “Lord, you’re up to something, aren’t you?” The rest is history—mammo 1, mammo 2, sonogram, biopsy, lumpectomy 1, lumpectomy 2, radiation, mammogram 1 post, mammogram 2 post, and next month will be mammogram 3 post op. First words out of surgeons mouth upon meeting her the very first time ...”Just a bump in the road...” BUMP!🥴
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Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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