I’m under the pressure of living up to others’ expectations of what a cancer survivor should be.
Over the years, well-meaning people’s comments have stirred these feelings — from saying I was courageous to have faced cancer to telling me there was a divine reason I survived.
I want to run away from that hero-on-a-pedestal sculpture people have made of me and now worship because I am oh-so-tough and a cancer-slayer badass and all of that.
Truth is, if I’ve survived thus far, it’s through pure random luck. I’ve done nothing extraordinary or heroic. Throughout treatments, I’ve done what most other cancer patients do: show up.
Truth is, I’m a chicken when it comes to cancer. I was terrified from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship. In fact, I’m even more scared as a survivor (I hate that word) than I was when going through treatments. While in treatment, I didn’t know how insidious cancer really is. Although I initially believed the disease would kill me, eventually I felt that, if I were lucky, I’d be treated and then be “done.”
Boy, was I wrong. I now know I will never be done with cancer. People are dying of metastatic disease, and I can’t feel that good about surviving if others are dying. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful to be alive, but I’m beside myself with all these never-ending losses.
Then there are my own demons. Every. Single. Day. I never “won” the battle (I dislike the war metaphors) against breast cancer. In fact, the battle still rages on, inside me, day in and day out. Every day I must battle my fears, depression, and anxiety.
This is the legacy cancer left me.
I yearn to run away. Not only physically run away from my doctor’s appointments and tests, but to run away from my fears and despair. To run away from PTSD. To run away from my pre-cancer life because I naively believed I would remain in good health. I’m trying so hard to run, and one leg is leading the way, but the other is stuck in the quicksand of memory.
It’s a good day when terror releases its grip on my mind. I do have good days. But they are a struggle to come by sometimes. I work overtime to maintain my psychological health.
In the land of survivorship, I’m like Humpty Dumpty: I can see the writing on the wall — I am broken and nobody can ever put me together again.
I have a strong faith most of the time, as I explained in a past post. Interestingly, all the times I prayed during diagnosis and treatment, I oddly never prayed for my own survival. Just prayers.
It’s true that my post-cancer life is better than my pre-cancer one in many ways. But some well-meaning folk have mistaken my gratitude for all the wonderful things that have come my way for my gratitude to God for divinely intervening on my behalf — by giving me cancer so I could be a better person. And so I could help others through my writing.
First of all, that’s a bum rap, an unnecessary burden and pressure on God. I do not believe cancer was a divine gift to help me turn my life around and/or help others.
Secondly, while I hope I can help others through my writing, in no way could I ever believe I was the one chosen to survive thus far (and I grieve that I can only say “thus far”) because I have more value to add to the world than people who did not survive. This is utter
I have no more value than anybody else in this world. Yet some religious
nuts people believe I’d been blessed with cancer so I can help others and that is why my life has been spared thus far. That this is what lends meaning to my life.
I want to set the record straight: I’m no modern-day hero leading the world on a self-help harmony ride.
Truth is, for the past couple of months, I’ve been the antihero. I’ve allowed myself to sit in the backseat and let PTSD drive.
Telling me I’m courageous and/or that my having cancer was divine intervention
pisses me off doesn’t sit well with me. Plus there’s pressure because people perceive me as someone I’m not.
Frankly, I don’t like pressure cooker living.
I’m more of a crockpot gal.
After all, to me, the metaphor of the courageous, blessed cancer survivor is a crock.
What kinds of pressures do you feel in relation to cancer?
Has anyone told you a shocking interpretation of why you got cancer?
Tags: breast cancer, cancer and hero, cancer and PTSD, cancer and survivorship, fear and cancer, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, prayer and cancer