I missed the cutoff.
So goes life sometimes, especially in the life as a professional writer. Most especially those of us who are procrastinators to a fault.
So here we are four sentences in and I’m guilty on all counts.
The “cutoff” I’m speaking of in the lead sentence has to do with the calendar which has now turned to November. November? Is it really November?
Indeed it is and the cutoff I had hoped to make has to do with the month of October and the recognition as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
As a breast cancer survivor with this unique opportunity to use this platform, it became important to me early on to be both transparent as well as honest with readers, family and friends.
This past October it was touching, as well as valued to hear from friends and family who went for their annual mammogram. Often times those acknowledgments being partnered with a “thank you for your grace and honesty during a difficult time, because of you I’ll never forget to do this.”
Now how awesome is that?
While my kids are still learning to appreciate the effects of mom’s honesty in such a public way, I believe their time will come. I mean after all who wants to be known as the kid whose mom has cancer – no one.
This brings me to a bit of honesty I felt compelled to share this past week. A little cancer straight talk if you will. While I am not a medical professional, nor am I an elected spokesperson for others in these shoes.
That being said, read as you will and wait for the wrap up as your final takeaway from what I’d like to share.
First and foremost Cancer is a disease. It’s not a virus, a cold or something we can easily cure with an over the counter remedy – oh how wonderful that would be.
I share this because as a patient as well as cancer survivor I can honestly say for the most part I never felt sick. Now yes, there were days I felt tired (post chemo), maybe even a bit queasy (also post chemo), but all in all cancer never left me with a feeling of being sick.
I share this because I’ve come to realize it’s a very common question among many who know me to text a “how are you feeling?”
So many times I’ve stared down at my phone reading these words from so many loving people and thought; how am I supposed to feel? Do I dare reply with the words Ticked off? Frustrated? Confused? Those would have been the honest answers.
Recognizing however, that there is a stereotype/stigma attached to this disease which can and has taken so many to their knees, my common response is “Great!” That after all should help them sleep better and it’s not a total lie. Emotionally some days a person with cancer can feel all the things. We feel happy, grateful, angry, emotional, scared, you name it; for the most part no different than anyone else. Welcome to life.
I’m really fearful this may not be coming across in the manner which I would like it to be delivered. I’m grateful, beyond grateful truly for all the love and support our family has received during this “cancer chapter.” When you’re in that chapter however, you just long for normal life again. In some ways, “normal” takes on a new definition. You have cancer, your life is forever changed, even if you do get clear scans, this is now a part of you.
So here’s the takeaway, the part I encouraged you all to stick around for.
If you have a “patient” in your life, be it cancer or anything else for that matter, communicate with them in a proactive way. Don’t be fearful of the conversation which you might perceive as uncomfortable. While they may be “ill” they may not feel that way and just like me they may simply long for normal. Instead of the ever popular “how are you feeling?” perhaps ask, “how’s the day going?” or “up for coffee?” or well, you decide.
Case in point, a few weeks back I met one of my best friends for lunch. Life has kept us busy and this three hour lunch meeting was long overdue.
A few days leading up to our meeting she shot me a text confirming we were still on and making sure I wouldn’t cancel. As I confirmed with her I was also honest and simply shared while I was very much looking forward to it, I just didn’t want to talk about cancer. She understood.
The day we met, I gave her a five minute update followed by, I really don’t want to talk about cancer. Her reply is in part indicative to why she is a true best friend.
“So then we don’t,” she chimed. “There’s so much more going on in your life that we have to talk about. How are the kids?”
That is what we crave. That is what we want. That is what “survivorship” is all about. Now go shoot that text, make that call and remember we all (even those who are well) simply crave simple normalcy.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.