Maybe you’re one of them.
After you finished treatment, you didn’t want anything more to do with cancer.
Ribbons and slogans? No thank you. Events that label you ‘survivor’? Uh-uh. Just leave me alone and let me get back to being a normal person.
I get it. Treatment can be harsh. It can make you feel lousy. No one wants to do that again if they can help it.
But is it really possible to disconnect from the part of you that’s a cancer survivor?
Maybe you’ve succeeded at putting cancer in your past. Maybe you’re one of the few for whom cancer was just a blip in an otherwise healthy, happy life.
But if you find yourself not wanting to talk much about your cancer journey…
Or you freeze when someone you know gets cancer, or has a recurrence…
If you’re OK most of the time, but struggle with increasing panic as your followup scans approach…
…then cancer still has power over you.
Your calendar may reflect as few survivor activities as possible, but cancer’s on your emotional agenda. And it’s likely to stay there until it has permission to leave.
Are you thinking, “Forget permission… I kicked it out!”
If so, I’m going to suggest this:
Cancer is a sly and persistent guest in your emotional world. It doesn’t leave because you tell it to. It leaves when it no longer has work to do.
Before I go further, let me say something I believe unconditionally: you didn’t get cancer because you had emotional work to do. There are ways other than going through cancer to accomplish emotional work, so it’s not in any way your fault that cancer came into your life.
But if it has, it brought with it the potential for rich personal growth. After it’s been treated, it will hang out in your thoughts until you see what it came to offer you.
It hangs out as tension about being around other patients or survivors.
It hangs out as anxiety about whether anything you do will keep you from getting sick again.
It hangs out as the sinking feeling that life will never be the same.
You can take cancer up on its offer, or you can refuse it. But cancer will keep poking into your awareness until you see the value of the gift it brings.
(Hint: it’s a gift that lets you see something magnificent about who you are.)
Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking about some of the gifts my clients have “unwrapped” when they became willing to look at what their cancer experience had to offer. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you have to say.
- Do you enjoy events (support groups, walks, etc.) that are geared towards cancer survivors, or have you wanted to distance yourself from them. Why?
- How does cancer hang out in your thoughts (if it does)? How do you deal with it?