Macmillan asked 10 people who have all experienced cancer to read out real things people have said or asked about cancer.
I related to everything they read out – I was told I was amazing, I was told I was brave, I was told I could do it and I could fight it etc.
I was a cancer patient then and now I am in complete remission.
I am passionate and wrote in a previous blog – ‘A new me’ about the wrong use of the word fight and although I concluded it by realizing I had used the word fight in my own experience it was a fight with the voice in my head.
Interestingly as I am writing this GMTV is on and the discussion is whether having a stiff upper lip is wrong.
I think I had a stiff upper lip whilst I was going through treatment because I wasn’t allowed to show emotion. Was that in my head or a reaction to all the ‘positive euphemisms’
A friend said to me she found my blogs fascinating because she learned everything about what I went through that I had not shared at the time. Was that because I had the ‘stiff upper lip’ or because I was trying to remain strong for everyone else?
I have another friend who – still to this day – tells me I am amazing. I have told her numerous times that I am not and that human instinct is to try and survive – be it with a cancer diagnosis, a son with drug issues or grandchildren living with you for 6 months. I want to say what the fuck do you expect?!
However, yesterday I wanted to message someone I know going through cancer treatment and the first words that came to my mind were: fight, strength and amazing; I did a double take. I was about to use the very words that had made me cringe and feel disempowered.
Reflecting on this I realized that it might actually be very natural for these particular words to come to mind when thinking of someone else’s journey – as an onlooker it is frustrating and you just want to fill the person with fire and strength. However, that fire and strength is in me and to tell someone what you feel they need to do: be it to fight, struggle, be positive etc. is to load them with yet another burden, in addition to their own illness.