Be Better Than Cancer Shaming

I recently came across a Twitter thread where people were shaming a cancer survivor’s decisions, forcing me to step back before reacting.

Recently on Twitter, a thread caught my attention where a cancer fighter reached out to the community asking for other cancer fighters/advocates to introduce themselves.

Right at the top of the chain, I saw that one person replied about how they were diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer and found success using alternative healing methods rather than chemo or radiation. She wasn’t selling anything; it was framed more from a place of sharing her story and looking to inspire others.

When I clicked through the responses, however, I saw that she was shamed for what was considered reckless decision making. Others didn’t feel comfortable with the approach and let her know it.

I personally found these responses triggering because of my own story fighting cancer. After being diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, I initially tried the conventional route— undergoing a year of aggressive chemo at a world-renowned hospital in New York City with several surgeries along the way. Unfortunately, the recurrences kept coming and when my doctors essentially ran out of answers, I saw no choice but to explore alternative healing, where ultimately, I also found success in turning my health around.

I get that cancer is a highly emotional subject and if you’ve been diagnosed, the fear of making a wrong move weighs constantly on your mind. When others take a different route, it can be hard not to project our own worries and insecurities onto them.

That said, as cancer fighters, we should also be capable of appreciating the trauma and how isolating one’s world becomes after receiving such a devastating diagnosis. Taking action, no matter how anyone goes about it, requires courage and insane amounts of inner strength to withstand the uncertainty.

It’s grueling enough just pushing through each day, so when we seek community for support, the last thing anyone needs is to feel shame— especially by the very community who is supposed to “get it.” That’s like cancer-on-cancer crime!

In its best form, community among cancer fighters isn’t about comparing who makes smarter decisions or has a better grasp of the realities at hand… We should be focused on spreading love, encouragement and most importantly compassion.

For the record, I am by no means immune to the lure of occasionally wanting to speak my mind and set somebody I disagree with straight. It took serious self-control to hold back from chirping away in that original Twitter thread. Rather than being reactive, however, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful for managing through difficult emotional waves:

Setting a 20-minute timer and waiting before responding. By then my nervous system had time to calm down. I can usually think more clearly and respond from a more composed mindset. 

Journaling to get anxious or angry thoughts out of my system

Turning to healthier outlets like playing guitar, working out or throwing on headphones and cranking up my favorite tunes.

If I notice that I’m extra moody because I’m tired, I’ll force myself down for a nap with a podcast to distract and tend to feel better afterwards.


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