A woman holding hands with a mirror image of herself, a crack separates them

There's More To Me Than Cancer

Cancer is a heavy word and for most people. It has a very negative connotation and I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t been touched by it. Maybe not themselves, but a friend, loved one, or family member and in many cases, the experience left scars.

Discussion of cancer brings pain

Cancer isn’t a subject that a lot of people want to discuss. It’s shrouded in pain and confusion. It brings back memories that feel more like nightmares. It’s a subject that many of us would rather avoid.

While I’d like to say that there is an ever-expanding compassion for those of us living with cancer. What I find is a need to change the subject, to move on from the conversation. It’s an itch that bleeds when scratched and, for most people, it's not a polite topic of conversation.

I try to be sensitive to that.

Keeping my cancer emotions away from loved ones

I’ve been battling leukemia for eleven years. I’d like to say that the majority of my support has come from friends, family, and loved ones, but that wouldn’t be honest. I try to keep this unwelcome passenger away from my relationships as much as possible. I feel protective about those I love and I don't want this unwelcome passenger to affect them too.

Having cancer can affect my relationships in ways I never expected. I never really know someone's experience with cancer and what it might bring out in them personally. I feel protective about that. So I don’t indulge in the conversation.

There’s more to me than cancer.

Reaching out to professionals

What I have done is reach out.

I figure that I need professionals who deal with cancer to help me with this unwelcome passenger. I keep this conversation for my time with them. I take notes, kind of a cancer log book or diary or journal of sorts. I put my experiences and symptoms in there. This way I don’t forget everything when my appointment time comes.

My journal has a deep red cover. It’s kind of the same color as the blood that I am writing about. When I use my journal it helps me to just get it all out without making another person feel uncomfortable.

Journaling my cancer journey

Writing things down helps me to keep track of it all. The appointments and tests and requisitions for the next appointments and tests. As I am keeping track of the disease I am also keeping track of myself. I can see how my handwriting changes when I am in pain and when I have recovered from that pain. It’s validating for me.

Yeah, there are some expletives in my journal, and that’s ok. There are good days and bad days in my journal and the pages don't mind if I curse a little. Sometimes there are just bullet points and arrows and partial sentences. There are to-do lists and important dates circled and x’ed when done.

When things get to be too much I reach out to professionals and cancer support groups and forums like this one. These are the people that are prepared for the conversation. These are the people that might have the experience to guide me to a more favorable outcome. I don’t feel like the conversation is burdensome this way.

While there is more to me than cancer, there is a necessity to address the issues with this disease. I can’t ignore it completely even on my best days. So I look for opportunities that might be best for the conversation.

Helping loved ones see beyond my cancer

I try not to blame anyone for being sensitive to the topic. I think the best I can do is put on a brave face and move on to topics that make us feel better, not worse. There is an element of privacy in all this that I relish the most. I don't want to be seen as a cancer patient.

There’s more to me than cancer.

How do you balance your relationships with this disease? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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