I just read someone’s Facebook posting in which a Doctor had written an article about Cancer survivors. It brought up for me some fundamental problems I have found in how people perceive survivors.
I suppose it is normal that we want to make these people all these things… “courageous “, “wise” ,“good at helping others through similar situations”, “ Ethereal”, “ knows priorities”, “They don’t sweat the small stuff” ,“They don’t hold a grudge”… etc… Basically we bestow on them some sort of saintliness just because they had Cancer.
For a long time I struggled with this perception because I didn’t see those qualities as always being present in my life. In fact it made me so uncomfortable that I didn’t talk much about being a survivor. Part of the reason for my silence was a low grade fear of recurrence, but a lot of it revolved around this expectation of other worldliness that I simply did not deserve.
Take me right now for example. Truth be told, I can hold a pretty good grudge for a pretty long time. That is not a good quality, nor is it healthy for me, but I know myself and once I am put in a position of feeling used or abused, I hold onto that feeling. If truth also is told, it would say, I am human and I try.
I hope I am no different from anyone in that I try to help others with the benefit of my experiences. I try to not sweat the small stuff. I try to find courage when I need it and help other find theirs if they have lost it. I am not Ethereal; I am very grounded in this earth I live in. But I do see beyond this place to another and know this life is all temporary and our eternity is so so much more.
I do not think these insights came completely from MY Cancer, but my Cancer has been a part of my journey and has helped define me. It has also helped define those around me. My children were young when I was diagnosed 10 and 12. They too have been forged in the drama of my Cancer. My husband, our friends, my siblings all have been affected by my Cancer.
Reading the Doctor’s account of these wise Cancer survivors, I was faced with what the world wishes Cancer survivors think, or do, or are. I was faced with how I fall short. I asked myself what I was going to do about it… truth be told, not much. I will continue to be who I am, and that may be that I carry a grudge and I will take a long time to forget a wrong. But, I have to say I am quick to forgive. There is a difference.
I remember what I said in my survivor speech and I still believe it. The most important thing about our survival is that it gives others hope. Our survival is very important for others to see and so it is very important for us to share. The perceptions of perfection that go with it, well, we may just have to live with and hope in being human we don’t disappoint too much. We didn’t have a choice about having Cancer, but we all have a choice about how we live.