Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.
As a cancer survivor or patient with cancer, being honest about feeling cranky some days and knowing it is being human is important to the journey.
Recently, I wrote an article stating that we cancer survivors aren’t angels, always accepting of our disease or being grateful. We have our bad days just like everyone else. I get comments from survivors that they tire of people telling them everything will be OK and sending smiley emojis when they are miserable. Some of them feel that the people doing this are just trying to make themselves feel better by saying, or e-mailing or tweeting these things.
One person just said (I loved her honesty) “I am cranky today!”
That struck a nerve with me. I truly admire the other cancer survivors I know and feel every single one of them is special, but there are some things to remember.
I often say that not one of us asked to be put into this role. If we are considered strong, courageous and admired it was not by choice. Most of us are simply dealing day by day with the cards we have been dealt with. We are all uncertain of where we are going with this insidious disease. Even when told there is NED (no evidence of disease) we remain nervous. We want to be hopeful but all of us know it was one little cell — just one – that caused the problem in the first place. That tiny little cell can rear its ugly head, and we have to start all over again to fight.
Many of us are still undergoing treatments that make us feel absolutely lousy, and most of us are suffering from indescribable fatigue, which is usually the most common side effect.
So should we be negative and not have hope — of course not. We do not need downers and that includes people in the medical profession who can be the worst sometimes by not allowing us to be positive. But some days we feel cranky. We ask not why this happened to us, but why it happens to anyone. We are discouraged and feel rotten.
So what do we want from friends and family? One word — LISTEN! Just let us have a bad day without telling us it is all OK or using smiley pictures. You can tell us we are loved and supported. Maybe all of us survivors should have one day a year called a “Cranky” day where we can feel lousy, sorry for ourselves, pound the table and mourn our old lives. I am half serious and half kidding. Let us wallow in our misery for a while. Most of us will walk through the muck and climb back out to be positive again, but we need that grumpy day once in a while. Come to think of it — may be all of us need this rather than just cancer survivors! Life is challenging for every one of us with or without cancer.
The Mayo Clinic has published an article titled “Cancer Survivors: Managing your emotions” which explains an important idea. “Recovering from cancer treatment isn’t just about your body - it’s also about healing your mind.” Many of us are afraid of recurring cancer, fearful of follow-up appointments, depressed and angry. We feel lonely, that we are not being heard, and are upset about our changed bodies. We do need to reach out to others to receive help and encouragement. And also to give hope to other people. Sometimes, we just need to feel sorry for ourselves, be cranky and know it is all right. After all, we are still human!