Unless you’ve had your own blood cells turn on you and try to kill you, it’s impossible to truly understand what it feels like to be a battleground for a war within your body you never authorized, or to be forever walking with the sword of Damocles dangling above your head. I beg of you: please don't give us unsolicited advice on how to deal with our cancer. Especially when your advice is telling us to be positive at all times. Please don't tell us how to feel, denying us our grief, our anxiety, our all-consuming terror. Please don’t deny us our anger.
I want to tell you cancer doesn’t grow or shrink or get cured based on how positive your thoughts or someone else’s thoughts are. That's just not how it works.
Unleash Anger, Unleash Rage
Open the Floodgates
Fear, for many of us, manifests as frustration and anger. Anger itself is a common emotion when dealing with cancer. We aren’t being "negative" people, but many of those around us prefer to label us as such. Maybe this is because doing so neatly defines us as people to avoid in a socially justifiable and acceptable way?
The author during her battle with cancer
Not your perfect Hollywood cancer patient
I Can’t Be Your Hollywood Cancer Patient
When some people say “I’m here for you, let me know if you need anything!” while simultaneously and repeatedly reminding us how important it is to stay positive, it feels like their shoulder to cry on is only to be offered if we deal with our cancer in a manner that is convenient for them. They'll see us through the good days, offering companionship on days we feel happier, but suddenly disappear when we're having a bad day when we dare to let our feelings out.
It often seems that when someone says they'll be there for us through all of the horrors of cancer, what they really mean is they'll be there for us on the "up" days. The days when we might act like the Hollywood portrait of “the perfect cancer patient,” taking it all in stride, smiling all the time, and never complaining. An inspiration to others in our never-ending glowing positivity through even the dimmest of diagnoses. If we cry, it’s a sweet, gentle “sobering” moment – no screaming or yelling or general frustration at the prospect of our bodies trying to kill us.
Pain Isn't Pretty
The Ugly Truth
Cancer is ugly, full of tears, confusion, frustration, mood swings, and absolute undignified terror. If you want to escape that by neatly labelling it “negativity I don’t need in my life right now,” you have lied to a sick friend when saying you’d be there for them.
If a Hollywood Cancer Patient is what you want, that’s fine. Be honest, upfront, and don't tell a cancer-stricken friend that you'll be there for them.
What you want is a fairy tale, not a friend with cancer.