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Cancer Can't Rewrite the Story of Us

What is the story you share with the world, and how has cancer changed it?

All of us, regardless of whether we are coping with cancer or not, have an ongoing dialogue with ourselves and with the world. It’s our story. It’s the book of our lives. 

I always try keep my final chapter open, hoping, of course, that I won’t find the need to write it for years to come. But we start writing our story early in life, the moment we get a response from what we do and how we behave. As babies, we become aware of what made our parents smile, laugh or scold us early on. As adults, we form our daily story in much the same fashion. It’s easy to minimize our discomfort and dismay and despair. And it’s natural in my opinion to embellish the good things about our cancer as opposed to the disappointing stuff. After all, who doesn’t like to hear about positive results – especially our friends and family.

The fact that we construct stories about ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean that we are misconstruing the truth or even telling ourselves lies in order to feel better. But according to University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman who has studied lying for more than a decade and reported his findings in a 2017 Huffington Post report, 60 percent of people lie during a typical conversation in order to appear more competent and likeable. 

But I’m not talking about lying here as much as I’m suggesting that as a cancer survivor, I often seek out the best news, and sometimes leave out that which doesn’t add something positive to my prognosis.

And perhaps that’s a good thing. There probably is no easy or gentle way to break the bad news to someone newly diagnosed with cancer, but my breast cancer surgeon, a wonderfully talented and respected doctor in Hawaii, actually wrote a book for other doctors about how to share the news of an unfortunate diagnosis. There is, after all, an art to telling a good story!

I was traveling when I got word of my cancer. My surgeon had promised to call with the results of my breast biopsy and I received a message on my cell phone. It began “Hi Khevin. I’m afraid I have a little bit of bad news…”

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
Khevin Barnes is a Male Breast Cancer survivor, magician and speaker. He is currently writing, composing and producing a comedy stage musical about Male Breast Cancer Awareness. He travels wherever he is invited to speak to (and do a little magic for) men and women about breast cancer. www.BreastCancerSpeaker.com www.MaleBreastCancerSurvivor.com
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