Here’s to using our “angry eyes…”
AnneMarie’s writing challenge last week was to share the annoying, upsetting, infuriating, frustrating, painful things we have heard as survivors. In reading some of the comments on her blog, I am reminded of how lucky I’ve been. There have been few overtly stupid things said within my earshot. As always, AnneMarie got me thinking…
Most upsetting in the early days of my diagnosis was the oft repeated refrain of: “It will be okay…”
The response in my head: EXCUSE ME??? What the $*#^ are you talking about??? I’m 35 years old, I have a 3 year old son, and this is going to be OKAY? What about this is OKAY? Oh, and by the way, if it’s going to be so okay, how about YOU take my place? Is it going to be THAT okay?
“Okay” had exactly ONE meaning in those days: “OOOOPS, the lab screwed up, you’re fine!” We all know how that went…
And THAT got me thinking about something else. Why was I silent? Why did I allow people, often friends, hurt me, sometimes again and again.
I see now that it was the beginning of the ongoing tension most survivors experience – the push and pull of being brutally honest about how we are feeling, and the need to reassure those around us that we were trying our hardest, and in the process meeting their needs at the expense of our own.
On Friday I went to see Pink Ribbons, Inc., the “pinkwashing” documentary now working its way across America. The film was excellent. Well done. Poignant. Heartbreaking. Provocative. You should see it!
For me, the most significant part of the film was the interspersed interviews with a Stage IV support group. The honesty with which they spoke of exactly these issues, about the many ways in which the world around us -even amongst early-stage survivors- simply cannot see our reality.
Shortly after my Stage IV diagnosis I realized that in part I was perpetuating this myself. People would kindly ask how I was doing, and I told them I was fine. Becase I was fine! I felt great, had energy, my markers were dropping, my treatments were (are) both tolerable and effective. I am FINE. But, I also know that playing down the seriousness of this illness can no longer be a part of my game plan.
My husband, brilliant as usual, gave me the language I needed: Today is a good day.
So simple, so right.
There is NOTHING okay about having cancer. Not for one minute of this journey. There are better days, there are worse days. We are body, mind and spirit…and on any given day one or all can be out of whack. When you are living with cancer, it is always there, always lurking, and it is categorically NOT okay.
And that said, today is a great day.