What people Don’t Get about Cancer… and its not their fault…but it is still ok to get mad:
What people don’t get about cancer is that you can look totally normal when you have cancer or when you’re in treatment. Sometimes you may even lose weight and look BETTER than normal but it does not mean you’re feeling well. So skip the compliments and the “you can’t be that sick you look great” comments. Cancer is not a beauty contest and looking great is not a consolation prize.
People are often confused about chemotherapy usually assuming it is one treatment or one drug. In fact, chemo is a category of treatment that includes MANY drugs. Sometimes it is used for diseases other than cancer, like severe autoimmune diseases. These drugs are diverse in their actions which means there is a variable set of side effects unique to each drug. Some people will lose their hair and be extremely tired while others may be throwing up all day. Despite the differences in chemotherapeutics, drugs in general affect everyone differently and there is no predicting an exact reaction.
Just because your friend Melanie worked full time, trained for an ironman, and home schooled 5 children while on chemo doesn’t mean that I can do all of those things too. No, its not because I’m way lazier than Melanie and no, my mental state does not determine my treatment side effects or the outcome. A positive mindset can certainly help you cope with the circumstances and hopefully that will impact your ability to tolerate treatment but let’s not be fooled into thinking that people are choosing to feel shitty.
Often people believe that in order to get cancer you must have eaten poorly, smoked tuns of cigarettes, and had a family tree full of disease. While I wasn’t perfect I did follow a very healthy diet, never smoked a cigarette in my life, and have no family history of cancer and yet this damn disease still found me. The truth is that healthy people get cancer too. The fact that cancer doesn’t discriminate can make us all a little uneasy. Unfortunately, even if we prescribe to healthy living, we all have to be vigilant.
Sometimes people would hear my diagnosis and look at me like I was going to die. Hey, we’re all going to die and that’s one messed up thought that haunts me every night. However, cancer is not necessarily a death sentence. Treatments are improving and people are living healthier and longer lives than ever before. On the contrary, cancer is not the common cold. When faced with this disease you can be taken to dark places and left wondering your expiration date.
Cancer remains a mystery for anyone who has not experienced it personally or through a loved one. When chatting to someone with cancer: respect where they are at, tread lightly, and avoid assumptions. Like all good conversations just ask caring questions and listen. Most importantly show up, support them, and acknowledge your own discomfort. It is far better to say, “I don’t know what to say”, than to say nothing at all.