Updated June 2020
Whenever you face a challenge in life, people always tell you to be strong, as if being strong is an option. For some of us, being strong is the only choice we have. But it’s also okay to not be strong, you don’t have to be positive all the time or act like everything is okay when it’s not.
If we don’t feel our feelings, they eventually build up and lead to an emotional breakdown when you least expect it.
We all react to the same situation differently
When I found out about my pre-cancer diagnosis, my first instinct was to keep it a secret. I was afraid of the stigma attached to cancer or pre-cancer.
The truth is when we think about anyone dealing with cancer, we are conditioned to think about a person who is ‘dying’ or ‘helpless’ and I didn’t want to be this person.
I didn’t want to be placed in a box. I didn’t want sympathy from anyone, I wanted to fight my battles on my own, no matter how bad it got. I felt like the best way to do this was on my own.
The fewer opinions, theories, and stories I heard from everyone else would give me more time to focus on creating solutions to my problem.
But it affects them too
Nobody in my immediate family was affected by any type of cancer, so when I told my closest family, some did not know how to handle the news. It was a difficult time for everyone.
The illness does not just affect the patient but also affects the people around them.
It is so important for loved ones to seek help from a support group if they are not coping. Watching a loved one deteriorate and not being able to do anything about it must be torture.
It was worse for my family because we live in different parts of the country. I didn’t want them to visit or take care of me, I was being my usual, stubborn self.
I did AND didn’t have a support structure
My family was extremely supportive. Even though there were times when they were not able to put their feelings into words, I understood more than anything, they wanted me to get better.
Some of my friends were also my pillars of strength. But I still decided to go through this situation on my own. I refused visits from family and sometimes distanced myself from friends just so that I could re-gather myself.
At the same time, I also didn’t have support from many people whom I thought I was close to. It’s during times like these, that you get to see people for who they really are.
I know that I am not entitled to anything, but the people I am speaking about, are people that I often visited, celebrating good times together and was always in contact with. Then suddenly, when I decided to share my news, some of these people vanished off the face of the Earth.
Maybe they thought I was contagious or dying…or maybe they were just not emotionally strong enough to handle my truth.
Some people used my situation as a time to reflect
I told less than a handful of people at the time. But, the most common reaction I got when I told some people about my health situation, was that they also needed to go for a check-up and I usually never heard from these people again.
I understand that the news is shocking, but a little empathy and support is always appreciated. In no way am I saying that life is all about me, but instead of offering support, some just went on about how they are having certain health problems and need to go for check-ups.
The conversations always became about them instead of what I was actually trying to say about my health.
This is also another reason why I decided to fight everything on my own because we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves.
Since updating this post, I now understand that people were not being self-centered, they were scared.
They didn’t expect me to get sick, and if I was fine on one day and suddenly faced with health issues the next day, then they were scared that the same thing could happen to them.
It was an emotional and physical rollercoaster ride
We all have good days and bad days. I was having more bad days than good days. Every morning I would affirm to myself that ‘today is going to be a great day’ but it was difficult because my body was giving up yet my mind was fighting to bring me back to space of normality.
I remember waking up one day and falling to the floor – my legs refused to work, post-operation. It was scary because doctors don’t inform patients about the side effects after surgery.
The fatigue was awful, some days I would lay on the floor because I had no energy to wake up. The physical challenges turned into frustration which was depressing.
I just wanted to do things for myself
Depression started creeping in because I was not physically able to do simple things such as grocery shopping or driving. I had no energy but every day I would wake up and my mind would fight my body so that I could get healthy again.
Friends would reach out and tell me to let them know if I needed anything. But in all honesty, because I’ve always done everything for myself, I didn’t want to place my burdens on anybody else. The gesture is still appreciated.
My limited physical abilities and self-isolation forced me to reflect
The lesson I learned is that if people REALLY WANT to help you or visit, they will be there. They will not ask you; they will tell you that they are coming over but will also make sure that you are up for a visit.
I’ve learned not to take anything personally; people were not intentionally being mean to me. They were just shocked by my unexpected news and used my situation to reflect on their lives.
Does it ever end?
Getting better was not the end of my struggle, it took me months to regain strength and appetite, I am still working on regaining all the weight I lost but I am happy I changed my entire lifestyle because I feel better.
Since I initially wrote this post, I had a clean bill of health and a few months after posting this, those stupid cells were back, but the reports are conflicting. I think going through this experience is something that you think you will handle better the second time around, but you don’t.
All the anxiety and negative thoughts are tucked away in the back of your mind, and when it is not dealt with, all those initial feelings from the original diagnosis come flooding back.
But I am still sticking to my healthy eating habits and other changes I’ve made in my life. My lifestyle changes were extreme, but I feel much better on most days.
Below are some of the changes I made and if you or a loved one is facing similar challenges, try to make small lifestyle changes. You will feel a difference.
The things I did to feel healthy again are:
- Regular exercise
- Cut out gluten
- Changed to vegan
- Cut out junk food
- Wake up every morning with affirmations of gratitude
- Meditate before going to bed
- More traveling to new places
I believe that everything happens for a reason and I know that I needed to go through this life-changing experience in order to live a more fulfilled life and value every day more.
Although I did not welcome a life-threatening illness into my life, I am grateful for all the lessons it taught me.