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Though we are each unique, connecting with fellow cancer survivors helps, says two-time survivor Barbara Tako.
No, we cancer survivors aren’t “all the same.” Each of us has a unique medical history, a different cancer, a different treatment and a different outcome. And yet, the world has been forever changed by the internet and online sites like curetoday.com and Facebook. Cancer survivorship has changed too. We don’t have to feel so alone, even if we are isolated geographically or due to time constraints or the rarity of our particular cancer. For a community of understanding support, for all of the fellow cancer survivors out there with me, I am deeply grateful. Thank you.
It is very possible to find others who “get” what you are saying out in the online cancer support systems. There are people who understand the yucky chemo side effects, the nights lying awake and the fear and uncertainty and loneliness. Feeling less alone with stupid cancer is nice.
There is intellectual knowing but there is also spiritual, emotional and “gut level” knowing. Fellow survivors understand. Sometimes it just helps to be understood, really understood. Sometimes that is only possible coming from someone else who has gone or is going through cancer, too.
There is useful information to be found from those going through similar diagnoses, treatments and side effects. Just remember that this comparing can be good and bad. Sometimes miscommunication happens because no two people or cases are exactly alike. It is awesome to have many experiences to learn from others, and to be careful out there.
I am grateful for ideas, perspectives and experiences different from mine. I learn about options in my approach to cancer that I haven’t thought about before. I can temper my approach by considering other approaches. There is wonderful gut-level, humorous, intense and even quirky knowledge out there. When we share with each other, I think we all learn that way.
It can be joyful and sad to be out there connecting with others. Cancer survivors know that not everyone gets rainbows and puppies. There are stories of courage and grace and loss out there. Together, we can metaphorically hold each other’s hands in the cyber world and get through. We all can rejoice and find hope in the success stories, like the anniversaries of NED (no evidence of disease).
We can all cry together when we lose someone to cancer, and while we cry, we can celebrate their life and the end of their suffering. We know together that not every story has a happy ending.
Mostly, though, it is nice to be less alone. Cancer is an isolating disease. People know intellectually that we aren’t contagious. Still, it can be almost instinctual for people to avoid someone “different”—someone who doesn’t have hair and looks pale and sick. All we want to do is to blend in again. We want to be part of the pack. Just like in middle school, we want to be just like everybody else. But with cancer, that isn’t always possible.
It is really neat that we can make our own pack. We can find and support each other as cancer survivors. Thank you for making cancer less lonely. Thank you for being part of my pack. Above all, thank you for understanding.