“So. You always have something to say. About everything. What are you going to say for World Cancer Day (celebrated Thursday, February 3)?”
Oho. Okay then…I asked some friends to help with ideas and comments, so this is a joint effort dedicated to the Women Supporting Women WhatsApp Group.
In addition to the whole of October for Breast Cancer/General Cancer Awareness, every other month has its individual focuses and multiple days and weeks, overlapping and doubling up throughout the year.
It is easy to see how cancer discussions can overwhelm you and take over every other aspect of your life, whatever stage you are at. Here are some of our thoughts, nothing earth-shatteringly new, but we forget …
It is depressing, fighting cancer. There is a great deal of pressure from all around you to be unfailingly optimistic and upbeat and to fight HARD all the time. The not-so-subtle implication is that you will die if you don’t fight hard enough. That is just dead wrong and unfair.
How often do you hear people going through challenging times being told to be brave? I say no! Because cancer sucks. That is all. So, be who you are, how you are, whenever you are. You don’t need always to put on a sour face, but it works for most cancer situations, too!
Don’t aim to go through it gracefully. Just get through it as best you can. Fight for a bit, then rest. The rest is not just to recover, but to gather the energy to go back into the fight.
It’s like child labour, or advocacy. Breathe, and then push. Inhale to gather the energy in and to recover, then push again. ……
That said, look for the light. Always and everywhere. A day without nausea, your child’s smile, your husband’s reaction to the cockroach in the bathroom, a silly meme or ridiculous pun sent by your brothers or sisters— these will get you through the tough times. It only takes a spark, as the hymn goes, so pass it on!
The first year is the hardest. And the easiest. I had heard this before, but I can now testify that it’s true. During the first year after diagnosis, you are so caught up in the shock, anger, grief, planning, fighting that you do not often have time to stop and think. Then, time passes. You didn’t die immediately. You get through the grieving and letting go of those close to you who disappeared. Your friends and family—those who stick around—get used to the idea of your untimely demise.
They get tired of hearing about the pain and treatments, and you start to feel guilty about talking about it at all. That is when you need some, or all, of the following, but you don’t know how to ask. So, I will ask for you (thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who shared their thoughts).
● If you could occasionally WhatsApp me to say you love me/are thinking of me/care about me, that would mean everything.
● Can you send me a letter via TTPOST or a small package of comfort items (snacks, nail polish, stickers, inside jokes, a recipe, a quotation from a favourite book, etc.)? That would help me feel less alone without the pressure to come out and do something that I physically am not up to doing.
● Please continue to include me in socialising plans, no matter how often I turn you down. And reassure me each time that it’s okay if I cannot participate and that you value my input anyway.
● If you have small, low-pressure things that I could do for you—walk through a work problem with you when you’re feeling low—that would help me feel meaningful and worthwhile. And if I ask you to do those low-pressure things, like water plants, or pick up mail, know that they are super important to me, so please follow through. That would make me feel so loved and cared for.
● If you feel comfortable/able to be a listening ear for me to vent to without offering advice, that could help me feel less alone and more capable. Especially the lack of unasked-for direction could help me feel less useless/dumb/helpless/thoughtless.
● If I’m a hugger, or even if I am not, and you live close or are able, you could drop by just to hug me or blow me a kiss over the fence on occasion. All protocols observed, of course!
If you live close/are able, you could occasionally call to ask if we could run our errands together. That could also help me make sure I’m getting food, out of the house, socialising a little, etc.
So those are my 2022 Words of Wisdom for Cancer Day, shared with the hope that they do you and your loved ones some good this and every year.