I tell people endlessly that I have been incredibly lucky, that the situation could have been so much worse. They usually tell me how brave I am, and that they admire my positvity. We both know it’s not that simple, but its so much easier this way.
I am 28 years old and I had cancer. A cancer that the median age diagnosis is 63. Women under 40 being diagnosed account for less than 5% of all women diagnosed – I can’t even find any research for women of my age. A cancer that is found almost exclusively in post menopausal women. A cancer that I have been exhibiting symptoms of for almost 10 years. A cancer which unequivocally could have been prevented if just one single medical professional had listened to me.
A cancer which took away my choice to have children. A cancer which will result in my bones deteriorating. A cancer which has put me at a higher risk of a whole plethora of debilitating conditions. A cancer which will continue to reduce my quality of life. A cancer which will affect almost every aspect of my life.
A cancer which could have and may still kill me.
It’s quite easy to seem brave when you don’t have any choice in the matter. If I did nothing I would die. It’s as simple as that.
But people don’t like to talk about that. If left uninterrupted people will overwhelm you with stories of all the people they have known who have died from cancer. You will be used as a vessel for everyone you tell, or worse still those who find out, to explore their feelings about cancer, about mortality, about health care systems, about charities. You are told of a thousand “cures the doctors don’t want you to know about”. You will be told about the benefits of positive thinking, and it will be insinuated that perhaps you were a negative person before, you will be questioned on your diet, your weight, your lifestyle – anything the person you are speaking to can find to distance themselves from your diagnosis – to establish it won’t happen to them.
And those who don’t do any of these things will compare your situation to theirs. Like the two are in some way comparable. They have usually had a setback and “got over it” so you’ll be able to also. Being diagnosed with cancer lets other’s real personalities come out, most times without them even being aware of it.
So you need to cauterise the situation. Because recovery is hard enough. So you coerce the narrative and tell them you have been lucky. They are immediately relieved and tell you that you are positive and brave. Because one of the hardest aspects of cancer is other people.