Becky’s blog: Cancer and silver linings, silver linings and lossesFebruary 4, 2014
By Becky MacLean
I grew up in a small town. Everybody knew everybody, and if you didn’t know somebody, you knew somebody who did. It was no surprise that before my parents could figure out how to tell my nan about my diagnosis, she heard it from a neighbor. Nor was it a surprise that before school had even started, I was quelling rumors about my diagnosis and treatment plan. With the immediate loss of privacy, I also lost my sense of self. Suddenly aware that I was being watched for signs of illness, weakness, disease, normalcy, health, and wellness, I made a conscious effort to act in a way that didn’t draw attention. If I seemed okay, pretending to be an optimistic, cheerful, and recovering individual, I could go about my daily routine.
This rouse to trick others into believing I was okay did not stop people from being there for me. I was never truly alone. I had the love and support of my parents and brother at home. They kept me company, nurtured me, and withstood my mood swings. My sister would have me over on weekends or during my week off from school. We would hang out, eat good food, watch movies, and adventure around town. My friends made me a big card with funny quotes, pictures, and well-wishes. They kept me in good humor and kept me fed on their positivity. With the help of many students and members of faculty, one teacher got people to learn how to cast a few stitches and knit me a hat. I was shown a lot of love during that time of loneliness.
Despite the fact that I felt loved, I also felt incredibly lonely. I felt incapable of being honest with those around me about how I was feeling, and this led to feeling very isolated from others. That isolation continued for years following the completion of my treatments. Although there were times I felt connected to those around me, and felt that I had regained my sense of self, it was not until I met Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) that things really began to change.
It was finally connecting with other cancer survivors, supporters, and health care professionals that allowed me a safe, supportive environment to actually confront, examine, and reflect on my experience. I have been introduced to innumerable resources for help dealing with stress, anxiety, fears, and finances. The individuals I have met have inspired me with their own strengths, the love and support they are able to give others, and the ways they are able to give back to the community. I have learned the power of storytelling, and sharing our very individual and human experiences. There is freedom in sharing our tears, and our laughter. When we are able to let them out, let them go, and stop defining ourselves by them, we are able to make room for better things, and become who we are ready to be.
(This blog has been reposted with the permission of Cancer Fight Club; it originally appeared on their website, cancerfightclub.ca, on August 14, 2013)