Since my cancer diagnosis, I have noticed that society puts a strange amount of pressure on cancer patients to be positive and stay upbeat at all times. Keep your chin up. Think positively. It's all about your attitude. These are the messages that seem to be almost instinctual when addressing someone who is facing cancer. And it's understandable. Being doom and gloom all the time isn't all that attractive to a bystander, looking in. It reminds people of the dark and depressing side of life. The part we all try to spend most of our days ignoring, so we can enjoy the beauty of living, while times are good. It makes sense.
However, as someone dealing with a pretty major crisis in her life, the pressure to remain positive at all times can be quite taxing. For the most part, I believe I have been handling things pretty well, for someone dealing with a life-threatening illness in her 20s. I make jokes. I laugh. I go out and do "normal people" things, when I am physically capable.
But there are times when it all catches up with me. When it suddenly hits me, everything I have been through, like a punch in the stomach. The tumor. The surgeries. The body parts I have lost. The hair I have lost. The exhausting days spent in the hospital. The debilitating, endless side effects from my chemotherapy. All the treatments I still need to have. The potential long term consequences. And the whole I could die thing. It's a lot. And it's hard. It's really, really hard. And in those moments where it all comes rushing over me, the absolute ridiculousness of my situation, I don't feel so chipper. I don't feel like shouting "cancer can't break my spirit!" I feel angry, and small, and scared. And sometimes, I cry. And I don't think this makes me weak. I think it makes me human.
I have read various interviews with cancer survivors online, where they have said things like "I never once let cancer get me down" and "I went on with my life completely as normal all throughout my treatment." As someone who has had a particularly rough go with treatment and all that comes with it, statements like this are hard for me to relate to. The whole cancer thing most definitely has me a bit down. I mean, it's not exactly a trip to Disney World. And my life, I can assure you, has not gone on as normal. A new normal, for now, sure. But not the one I was used to, and not the one I had hoped for at this stage in my life. I have my good moments, and I have my bad moments. I have times where I want to hug people, and times where I want to throw things at people. This is my reality, and I believe it is the reality for many cancer patients, particularly for other young adult patients, whose lives have been flipped upside down in a way they never saw coming.
Unfortunately, no amount of positive thinking will spontaneously cure my cancer, or make all the pain go away. But on my good days, I will keep my head up. I will smile and I will remember all that is good in this world and all of the reasons I am trying my best to stay in it. I will do this not because someone tells me to, but because it gets me through. And on my bad days, I will be grumpy, and curse cancer and maybe even feel a little sorry for myself.
Sometimes, you just have to cry.