Wanting to leave the world of cancer behind is a normal feeling for many touched by breast cancer.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
There it was, just sitting there in bold letters at the top of my inbox, another cancer email. The subject line on this one read “World Cancer Day Celebration.” Without taking time to read the email in its entirety, I quickly deleted it. I didn’t want to read anything else related to cancer. I was sick of cancer. I was tired of hearing about it, reading about it and seeing cancer-related items. Pink was not my signature color, in fact, I hated pink. How did they get my email address, anyway? I hadn’t signed up for anything regarding World Cancer Day. I wondered if, somewhere out there in internet land, there might be a huge database where solicitors gleaned information on cancer victims because lately, my inbox had been flooded with cancer-related emails. When they first started coming, I read every single one. I thought there might have been some important information I needed to know, but as they kept coming, I started sending them to a junk folder. I couldn’t handle all that information. It was too much. It was information overload. I didn’t need it and I didn’t want it. That email shouldn’t have frustrated me, but it did.
For the past couple of years, I’d been trying to shake the stigma of breast cancer. It had attached to me like an angry puppy with sharp teeth sunk deep into the skin around my ankle. No matter how much I’d wiggle and shake to dislodge the angry mutt, he wouldn’t let go. It seemed I was stuck with him for the rest of my life whether I wanted to be or not. It didn’t seem fair and I certainly didn’t like being defined by a disease but I was stuck with it.
The first year of my diagnosis, family and friends thought they were doing me a favor by sending me breast cancer scarves and bracelets. The novelty of their thoughtfulness was cute in the beginning, but quickly became antagonistic. As my drawers filled with cancer-related jewelry and clothing, I began to stress. I felt like cancer was taking over. I felt it growing larger and larger and felt myself shrinking. Of course, they meant well, but they just didn’t understand.
Last year, I politely let my loved ones know I didn’t want any more cancer paraphernalia. I told them I had enough. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I needed to stop the madness. It felt good to say no. Without their knowledge, I gathered up all the pink ribbon doodads and carted them off to a local donation center. I knew someone else could make better use of them than I could. It’s a good thing to share anyway, right?
I’m tired of cancer. When did I give it permission to consume my life? It would be nice if I could simply opt out of cancer, just like those unsolicited credit card offers I get in the mail. They’re nice enough to provide an 800 number I can call to refuse the offer. At least they’re a teeny bit considerate. Not so with cancer. It comes busting through the door with guns blazing and wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting life.
So where do I go to sign up to cancel my subscription to breast cancer? Is there a cardboard mailer I can fill out and send away? Can I cry, kick, scream and whine requesting a do over? Will yelling out “no fair” make a difference? And even if cancer allowed me to have a voice, would my voice be heard?
Cancer, please don’t bother me anymore. I don’t want your emails filling up my inbox. I’ve read more about you than I’d ever care to admit. You are not my friend, in fact, I’d like to unfriend you now and I would if I could figure out how.