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Breast cancer and melanoma survivor says you are allowed to feel what you are feeling, whatever that is.
I know there are breast cancer survivors who get praised for facing their cancer bravely and stoically. Why does our society encourage and desire that? For sure, that wasn’t me. If my breast cancer or my melanoma returns, I might cry less and I might not. Over six years out from chemotherapy, I will tell you that I got through my cancer, especially the first one, with tears and fears.
Are some people braver then others? Maybe we are just different in how much we express or articulate our worries and fears or maybe it is partly a matter of how much different treatments mess up our hormones and emotions in the process? Maybe it is about what life has already dealt us up to the point of our cancer diagnosis? I don’t know, and maybe it doesn’t even matter.
I know I literally cried and worried my way through breast cancer treatment and the hormone-driven and steroid-driven emotional roller coast ride of the surgeries and treatments. My face wasn’t a graceful face, and probably showed my fear. Close friends and family saw my tears and heard about my fears. Maybe I should have spared them?
Maybe. We each have our own burdens in life—health problems, broken relationships, financial struggles and maybe even more than one of these things at the same time. Yes, it was OK to feel and expressed my feelings, but maybe I could have toned down how it showed? After all, ultimately, the only sane way to approach cancer or any other life issue is to start making lemonade out of lemons as soon and as much as you can.
I went through my cancer honestly with the people in my life. I wrote about cancer honestly. Still, the courageous graceful people and the tears and fears cancer patients get through their treatment. Both, whether they show it or not, live with fear of recurrence and this uncertainty for the rest of their lives.
Maybe my honesty will help my friends and family be better prepared to face cancer if it happens to them. Or maybe, putting a braver face forward to them might have made facing cancer look more doable if they ever have to face it. I don’t know.
Cancer takes its toll with either outward approach. Cancer and the treatment takes from you physically, mentally and emotionally. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have short-term and long-term side effects, but those treatments do work—so far, I am still here. I am blessed to be here. I am grateful.
It is OK to cry when you need to and as much as you need to. Cancer isn’t a fight or a battle or a war. I am not a brave warrior. I am a woman. Cancer isn’t a gift. I didn’t get some special present. Cancer is a disease. With this life lemon, you suffer, learn, grow, and, over time, maybe more or less time than you would like, you live and then die. Cry when you need to and make lemonade when you can. There is no right or wrong way to feel about your cancer. You are allowed to feel the way you feel.