What's Your Facebook Cancer Status?
Recently, I posted an update on Facebook. I wrote about how I was competing in a tennis tournament. I included two pictures- one of myself in the hospital after my SCT, and the other, next to the tournament banner. I wrote about how proud I was to be able to compete less than 3 years after my treatment. My FB followers all congratulated me, commenting on how tough I was and how proud they were.
It was a lie
But it was a lie.
The part about competing wasn't the lie. The before and after pictures weren't either. It was the insinuation that I went from fighting cancer to being back to normal in less than 3 years. The truth was, after each match, I went back to my hotel room, collapsed on the bed, and cried from being so exhausted. I barely ate regular food, sustaining on energy bars and sports drinks. Although I was in a tourist area, I didn't drive around and see any of the local sights because I was too tired to leave the hotel room. Why didn't I post that part on FB?
I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me
We all know that much of what is posted on social media focus on the positive. Behind some of those smiling faces are stress and challenge. Much like social media, I kept the challenge of my cancer hidden. I hadn't told anyone on my team about my struggle- I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me, and none of them followed me on FB, so I kept that part hidden. Even the decision three years ago to post that I had cancer took a lot of thought. It wasn't something I had intended to do, but a friend encouraged me to let those around me know about my struggle. In the past 3 years, I have only referenced my cancer twice- once right after my SCT and the other after this recent tennis tournament.
Behind my Facebook status
When I was going through my transplant and recovery, I didn't want to burden my family with my fears and challenges. When colleagues or other friends asked me how I was doing, I told them I was getting better. At my doctor's appointments, I was quick to make a joke and give a compliment- deflecting any questions about how I was feeling. One of my doctors even called me his "star pupil" because of how positive and uplifting I was.
Luckily, I had one close friend with whom I could confide. She was the one who took me to try on wigs, held me when I cried when I saw myself in the mirror and agreed with me that "wigs weren't for me." She organized our friends to send me cards of encouragement and let each of them know not to expect me to send out thank you cards (I did anyway). But she was the only one I ever allowed to see me that way- the only one I let see behind my "FB status"
What's your cancer status?
The question is, how many of us are hiding behind smiling faces and success stories, while still battling cancer behind the scenes and projecting a positive "status"? What if we were more honest when discussing how we're feeling, especially with the ones who are closest to us? What if we allowed others to take care of us without feeling guilty?
What is your cancer "status"?
Have you met another blood cancer patient?