Itís your choice to explain how your cancer battle has affected you, but itís their choice to try and understand.
Ryan Hamner is a four-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a musician and a writer. In 2011, he wrote and recorded, "Where Hope Lives" for the American Cancer Society and the song for survivors, "Survivors Survive" used in 2015 for #WorldCancerDay. Currently, he operates his website for those affected by cancer, 2surviveonline.com and drinks a ridiculous amount of coffee per day.
With cancer, chemotherapy and radiation, come side effects. Sometimes the side effects of cancer treatment are short-term, and sometimes, they seem to be like Bill Murray in What About Bob
and won’t ever go away. This can be frustrating, like Bob.
I’ve always had problems telling people about my side effects of cancer treatment. Often, it has been because of my pride, embarrassment or fear. Other times, I simply would ask myself why I needed to say anything, anyway. Also, I’ve never wanted to seem like I was making up excuses. I have been torn with keeping quiet and wanting to explain why I couldn’t run three miles, but running one mile without stopping would be a major accomplishment for me. Oh, and if I could find my way back, that was a pretty huge deal, too. OK, so I wouldn’t really get lost, that much.
Saying nothing isn’t always the best choice. There are plenty of situations where you should speak up about your side effects of cancer treatment.
“Hey guys, I’ve had lots of radiation, so that may be the reason your cell phones are no longer working.”
Honestly though, think of the many situations where speaking up could make sense and be important—on vacation with friends, when maybe you can’t just be out all day. Maybe you need a long nap because of fatigue. Or, on the group beach trip you need to stay inside and out of the sun because of a medication. And what about those times when you shouldn’t have other kids over to your house because of your weakened immune system?
It can be frustrating to speak up about your issues, as well as to try to get your message across once you do. It seems like explaining to someone would be as easy as, “Hey, my memory is terrible,” which they might have already caught onto by the time you tell them for the third time. However, it’s just not always so simple, even after a third time.
Often, you can explain all you want, but unfortunately, some people you talk to just don’t get it. To some, the long-term side effects of cancer and cancer treatment can be as easy to comprehend as, well, the tax code, how the internet works, the addiction to Pokemon Go, lyrics to that Beck song, Loser, and understanding why when you hit the delete button to erase one word in a text message your phone deletes the whole message. And why is it so hard for some to “get it?” Simply because they haven’t been there—and that’s OK. That’s actually a good thing.
Don’t ever let pride, embarrassment or any other fear keep you from trying to help others understand how your battle with cancer may have affected you. It’s your choice whether or not you decide to tell your coworkers why their cell phones may have stopped working, but it’s their choice on whether they decide to try and understand.