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.
Sometimes it feels like we go through cancer alone, but there’s a community out there to offer us love, support and encouragement.
Cancer is not a singular experience, it’s plural. When one is diagnosed with cancer, it doesn’t only affect that specific individual, it affects many.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought I would be the only one going through the trauma of disease. Erroneously, I thought cancer would only affect me and I thought in some way my loved ones would escape unscathed. I was terribly wrong.
As I went through surgery and the subsequent treatments, I was affected not only physically, but also emotionally. My husband and children watched cautiously as I learned to navigate tumultuous waters. In the beginning, things were pretty rough. I did my best to stay afloat one minute at a time. They tried to help the best they could, but these were uncharted waters. They had no idea what to do.
Some days, I barely kept my head above water. It felt as if I were sinking into oblivion, but those who loved me quickly came to my rescue. Their support helped buoy me to the surface. Somehow we managed to muddle through.
I was one of the lucky ones. I had people who rallied around me. But what if that hadn’t been the case?
If I had no family, friends or loved ones to help me push through the hard days, I know I still wouldn’t have been alone. You may be wondering how I can say this. Perhaps you’re all alone in your cancer fight right now…or so you think.
Cancer is not a singular experience, it’s plural. I know this to be true because I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it firsthand. Even when someone is diagnosed and going through treatment all by themselves, they’re not really alone. There are others involved. The doctors, nurses and medical staff are there involved. They’re available to offer their support. Although it may not seem like it, they do care and they do want to help.
Whether you know it or not, there are others who may or may not have your same type of cancer. They are pulling for you. Cancer has a way of binding people together and causing them to feel empathy toward one another. We are a rare breed. Those who’ve gone before you understand the difficulties you will face. We know there will be days when you’ll feel like giving up, but you won’t because somewhere inside, there’s a natural instinct to survive.
You may not see evidence of the fact that you’re surrounded by others, but know it’s true. Each person touched by cancer cares. We don’t necessarily know how to show you in a tangible way, but we agonize with you. Even if we never meet, we may hear of your plight and when we do, we instantly think to ourselves, “oh no, not another one…”
If we had the ability to do so, we’d keep you from ever experiencing or hearing the word “cancer,” for we know its ugliness. But much to our chagrin, there’s nothing we can do to prevent the power of the disease.
Cancer is not a singular experience, it’s plural. Everyone touched by cancer has been or will be changed. Cancer quickly teaches it has the power to discourage, demean and destroy a life.
Cancer wants you to think you’re the only one. It wants you to think you’re alone and that no one cares, but we do. We all do. And some of us care more than others.
Those of us still floundering in the sea of cancer’s grip find hope knowing cancer isn’t a singular experience. Just like a vast ocean, we know there are too many cancer victims to count.
So the next time you’re feeling isolated or alone in your battle, you’re not. We’re here — all of us. And we want you to remember the cancer experience is not singular, it’s plural.