“It Will Be Okay…”

ImageRemember in Toy Story, when Mrs. Potato Head is about to send Mr. Potato Head off to help save Woody and tells him she’s packed his “angry eyes?”

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.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Facing Cancer (@cancer2gether)
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 10:12:24

    Brilliant indeed – it’s hard to find an answer when others ask about health . . . I often find myself dipping into my head and wondering how much they’d actually like to hear. But “today is a good day” is an excellent answer. Kudos to your husband, and great post as well. (I love how you started with Mr & Mrs Potatoe Head)



    • Lori
      Jun 04, 2012 @ 14:15:35

      He’s REALLY wise! And even if “today” isn’t a good day, it still works. It’s a reminder to both others and ourselves to take it one day at a time.


  2. Carolyn Thomas
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 13:03:09

    Hi Lori – love your hubby’s recommended response: “Today is a good day!” This says it all, and it says just enough.

    This “fine, just fine” scenario is also distressingly familiar among women living with heart disease as well as cancer. In fact, I was just writing about this very subject recently (the post will be published on June 8th at HEART SISTERS – http://www.myheartsisters.org – pls drop in to read it after that date!) In it, I quoted Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Brightsided”, in which this breast cancer survivor writes:

    “The pervasive pressure on sick patients to be relentlessly positive is akin to seeing the glass half full, even when it lies shattered on the floor.”

    Thanks for your perspective on this important topic.


    • Lori
      Jun 04, 2012 @ 14:14:27

      Thank you so much for your response and for bringing to my attention that this isn’t just cancer at all! The quote could not be more appropriate, and I look forward to reading your piece next week!


  3. The Accidental Amazon
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 14:45:03

    Lori, did you see Marie’s post on Reframing Cancer Survivorship? Now there’s another thorny couple of words, ‘survivor’ and ‘survivorship’ Oy. Quite the discussion going on. Here’s the link: http://journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com/2012/06/03/reframing-cancer-survivorship/

    Love Carolyn’s quote, and your husband’s. Sometimes all I can manage to say on a given day is, “I’m still here to bitch about it.”



    • Lori
      Jun 04, 2012 @ 15:09:13

      Thank you for joining in! Yes, I saw Marie’s post and that sparked another on soon to be published. Thanks, too, for your take on this. I’m fairly certain your language will be working its way into my vocabulary on those tough days!


  4. Jeanne
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 10:24:24

    Lori, your blog is wonderful. Hard to read at times, both blog and comments, yet riveting. You all tackle some deeply serious thoughts with amazing depth and clarity. I have no idea how you can put your thoughts into words like you do or even know you have those thoughts. Hmmm, guess that’s why I don’t have a blog!
    Blessings to all of you fighters and survivors. Keep blogging for all us shallow thinkers.


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