I dislike many platitudes when it comes to cancer. The general healthy public likes to give a positive spin to cancer — especially breast cancer, of course. In fact, so many in our society consider breast cancer the cute, benign sort of cancer, even though it kills and maims.
Well-meaning people have tritely referred to my breast cancer experience as a “journey,” as if there’s a beautiful road to a beautiful place of self-revelation.
I hate this platitude.
My life’s path hasn’t become more meaningful since cancer sunk its fangs into me. I don’t have a higher purpose or calling. Cancer did not set me on an important journey toward self-discovery and self-revelation.
The only journey cancer took me was on a road paved to hell. And therein lies my self-revelation.
For example, on biopsy day, my surgeon told me that the diagnostic mammogram showed that the mass in question was highly indicative of cancer. I literally felt the examination room table I was on drop down, down, down — and I was falling into an abyss of unchartered terror.
That was my initiation into the world of the cancer journey.
But that was only the beginning. Chemotherapy and radiation and an aromatase inhibitor wreaked havoc on my body. At a young age, I did have an epiphany of sorts: I learned what it was like to feel old, sick, and worn down.
Not exactly a feel-good breast cancer journey.
And cancer wasn’t done with me after treatment ended. I am exceedingly lucky I’m not metastatic, and each day I realize so many people are still struggling with breast cancer and its treatments. Many will die of the disease. Thus far, my life was spared.
But my mind was not spared. In fact, it bled out. The journey to PTSD is a one-way ticket to a horrific place filled with triggers and land mines. Any misstep is precarious.
I’m lucky to be NED (no evidence of disease) thus far.
But in a sense, I am still a lifer.
PTSD has forever has changed my brain chemistry; trauma haunts my mind, inhabits my body, and is here to stay.
Yeah, some journey. Right.
I spend my days working harder than I should have to in order to make life’s moments meaningful and stretching these moments into meaningful hours and days.
Some people tell me that I should be over “it” and see my “cancer journey” as a well-paved road that goes from point A to point B. But truth is, that road is not linear and it’s fraught with potholes.
The journey metaphor is harmful to people who have/have had cancer because it puts pressure on us to feel that cancer somehow impacted our lives in a meaningful, positive way. This is not always the case. That being said, however, my cancer take-aways have been to not take my health for granted and to realize that I am luckier than others.
And that has to be enough.
What are the platitudes you dislike the most and why?
What are your cancer struggles? I want to hear about them.
For a post on other problematic platitudes, click here.
Tags: breast cancer, breast cancer and PTSD, cancer journey, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD