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Remaining Genuine Throughout a Cancer Journey

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I never told my daughters what stage my lung cancer was. Was I being genuine?

cartoon image of blogger and lung cancer survivor, Sue McCarthy

My daughters didn’t know about the wild goose chase leading up to biopsies of the tumors in each of my lungs.

For years I held onto authenticity as a valuable character trait. Yet, I struggled with demonstrating genuine behavior while on my lung cancer journey. It was so hard for me to pass on bad news from my doctors to my loved ones, especially my three adult daughters.

All three of them asked me multiple times about the stage of my cancer. I didn’tdemonstrate integrity; I didn’t tell them.

Once, my oldest daughter called me, and I was worried about the extent of my cancer and upcoming chemo. My back hurt because I was so stressed by my cancer issues. I told her my back hurt. She was kind and comforting, and by the end of our conversation my backache was gone.

I disappointed myself, but just couldn’t answer those difficult questions and talk about those challenging topics.

By the end of the lead up to my diagnosis, I had so much testing and so many negative results, it was hard for either my husband or me to remain optimistic. Dan encouraged me yet again to buy a new piano. My confidence in life after cancer was low; my hope minimal. Piano lessons or not, why buy a new piano that I would never play? I bought the new piano to make Dan feel better.

I was conflicted, then realized that maybe therewasn’t a right or wrong way to handle the degree of honesty, emotional strength or courage. It seemed like an impossible choice. Should I hold the greatest of the pain in, or cause my loved ones more despair?

Five days after my first chemotherapy treatment, in the middle of the night, I wondered, “Is this what it’s like to be poisoned?” I felt like I was dying of chemo. I was afraid to be left alone.

“Please Dan, will you ask your boss if you can work from home.”

However, my husband felt the need to go into the office of the engineering company where he worked, not only to earn a living, but to assure himself eight hours of peace of mind. He was available to me the rest of the day. Did I or didn’t I really need him with me?

One day my middle daughter came to visit me. And I almost couldn’t dress myself, but I felt the need to be out of my pajamas when she arrived. Why? I’m sure she would have loved me equally much still dressed in my nightwear.

As the year and one half of lung cancer treatment continued, I tried to be more open about my situation with more people, and I got that as a result of what my daughter originally called Sue’s Prayer Army. My supporters were everyone from out-of-town relatives to parents of the students I tutored. They were acquaintances and friends; folks who cared. I kept them informed about my situation; they sent me text messages, with and without emojis. All the support was good, from the variety of interested neighbors and people I knew only casually.

In remission from my lung cancer, I began participation in the American Lung Association Lung Force Walk. After reading the flyer I made to raise funds for ALA, my daughter commented to me, “I don’t think I was aware that your cancer was stage 3B.”

I said, “You didn’t know. I couldn’t tell you, and your sisters. I’m sorry.”

She responded, “I’m glad I didn’t know.”

Then I remembered the inspirational message that I recently set on my writing table. The most important thing is being kind to yourself when things don’t go as planned.

Remaining genuine is NOT the most important thing during a cancer journey.

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