Another ownership issue that I have been struggling with is ownership for my feelings and emotions. I wrote about it here. Well, kind of wrote about it, sort of. Race for the Cure will be the Saturday before Mother's Day. It always is. And I will walk in it again this year. If you'd like to sponsor me you can go here to make a donation online. Being my 10th year of survivorship, I have had the time that I was being treated for cancer on my mind A LOT. Ten years ago today, having already been told that I had breast cancer I met with my surgeon to learn the extent of my cancer and develop a treatment plan. It was a very hard evening. I went in after work and was there for three hours. I don't know how I walked through that time in my life. I think about it now and I simply shudder. One of the things that still stands out in my mind is that was emphasized over and over by almost everyone treating me was that "a lot of my recovery would depend on my attitude and outlook."
Really, just put a smile on my face and trudge bravely on and everything would be alright. Except they weren't telling me that I'd be alright. Quite the opposite. They were all telling me how gravely ill I was and treating me as if they were afraid that I'd perish the next minute. I did not wait for anything. The minute I walked into the doctor's office I was ecscorted back immediately. I was give preferential treatment even when frail old me in wheel chairs and on oxygen were waiting, It was terrifying."If you smile through your fear and sorrowSmile and maybe tomorrowYou'll see the sun come shining throughfor you"
I don't think that every person who is ill or in pain should lie around on the couch moaning and groaning. I also don't think that constantly talking about how utterly horrible I felt would have been a positive thing. But I was made to feel that I couldn't talk about the sickness and fear that I was feeling. So when the new chemo made me feel so weak that I had trouble walking up the stairs and cold all the time, I didn't tell anyone. It turned out that it was caused by severe anemia. It wasn't discovered until I went in for chemo. If I'd just spoken up, I would have been treated a week earlier. I was also afraid to tell anyone about the boredom and fear and saddness I was feeling. Just put that smile on my face and move on. No body wants to see a sick person.
I still get that same message all the time. Every thing I see about survivors shows smiling happy people moving on and enjoying their life. I see pictures of survivors smiling and doing things that they always wanted to do like kyacking and skydiving. You won't find pictures of women with swollen arms or choosing a mastectomy bra. They don't show a woman wearing a sundress because the port-a-cath scar would be visible. I went to a therapist to try to work through some of the sadness and fear that I still have. But didn't go back because the therapists advice was basically to cheer up and quit thinking about it.
Shouldn't I have been allowed to say out loud that I was really afraid that I wasn't going to get well? And shouldn't I now be allowed to admit that every aching bone or swollen lymph node is a sign that the cancer is back? Why is it so terrible to simply feel what I feel?
I do think that it is important to choose carefully what you do own. I hate to hear someone say "Hi bitches" as a greeting. I don't own that. I'm not a bitch. I will not accept that they are greeting me. But the things that are a part of me, I think that I should own that.
I'll try to make my next post a little less heavy. I promise.