So, there is something that has been weighing on my heart and mind since I got diagnosed with TNBC (Triple Negative Breast Cancer) on July 19, 2013, and I really feel like I need to get it off my chest, so to speak.
I have compiled a list of things that I am still angry about, even though I am in remission and the cancer has been completely gone (so far) sine February 2014:
1. Having cancer did NOT make me a stronger person.
One of the huge lies that the media (and other outlets) have perpetuated is that once you have Breast Cancer, you somehow magically become this “super-human” who has achieved this higher level of understanding and enlightenment due to her trials.
I cannot stand it when people come up to me and say, “I’m so proud of what you survived. You are such a brave and wonderful human being.” I did NOT survive breast cancer because of something I did. That is not realistic, nor is it logical.
I survived breast cancer because I was lucky enough to have a body that could handle the harsh poisons and chemicals needed to kill the disease as it grew inside of me. I survived breast cancer because I was lucky enough to have a body that could handle getting radiated once a day for almost three months with no breaks. I survived breast cancer because I was lucky enough to have a body that could handle the strain that was put on my lungs, my heart, and my liver throughout treatment.
I did not do anything in particular to survive, and I do not appreciate it when it is implied that I was somehow stronger than someone else who did not survive.
2. Cancer is NOT fair.
I particularly have trouble with this point. Cancer is not fair. There is no rhyme or reason as to why I survived and people I loved did not.
I got diagnosed with breast cancer a few months after my grandfather was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I have never met a more steadfast and strong-willed person than my Papa. I thought, “if anyone can beat cancer, then it’s definitely Papa.”
I was wrong. My grandfather died about a month after I had my first round of chemotherapy. His body could not handle the harsh chemicals coursing through it, and he did not survive. I have struggled with this because I feel like in some twisted way, my Papa died because he was giving me the remaining years of his life, so I could have a little bit more time on Earth.
My boss at the acting studio I work at was in remission from having Lymphoma, and right after he offered me the job, I found out I had TNBC. Mr. E’s spirit was so strong and so vibrant that I thought he would stay in remission.
I was wrong. Mr. E passed away in April 2014. His Lymphoma came back and eventually defeated him. Why is it that I survived and Mr. E didn’t?
Survivor’s guilt sucks.
3. My experience with breast cancer is never going to just be “over.”
People assume that when you are in remission from cancer, everything is fine and you can just go back to being normal. You can NEVER go back to the way things were before you had cancer.
You still have to go to doctor’s appointments every three months after you are done with active treatment. You still have to wait for your hair to grow back after it has died and fallen out after active treatment. You have to get used to the way your body feels and looks now that you are done with active treatment.
There are all sorts of things that people don’t realize you still have to cope with as a cancer survivor after active treatment is over, and in all honesty, they may not realize it because they have never experienced having cancer for themselves. Believe me, I would never wish cancer on anyone, but it is something that is hard to describe to someone that has not been through it themselves (or had the experience of being very close to someone who has gone through it).
I will continue to add to this list as I feel the need to, but I think this is a good start so far.
DISCLAIMER: I am by no means saying that I am ungrateful to be alive and in remission from cancer, but I feel that some things are often forgotten when speaking to survivors about their experience.
As always, please feel free to let me know your opinions and ask questions in the comments.