5 things people with cancer want you to know:
Everyone's experience with cancer may be different. For someone who has just been diagnosed, it can be scary to not know what to expect - will it be like what you see in the movies, or will it be completely different? It isn't until we start treatment and the process of beating cancer that we really understand all of the misconceptions that exist.
For those who haven't been affected by the disease, it can be hard to know what to say and how to say it. And for those who are dealing with a diagnosis, it can be incredibly frustrating to be stereotyped into certain categories that aren't reflective of what they're going through. We set out to dispel these myths.
1. Cancer doesn't always end when treatment does.
The "new normal" is a hard, scary place to be for many people. Not only are we still dealing with lingering physical side effects of treatment, but we are also faced with the emotional side effects of a cancer diagnosis -fear of recurrence, survivors guilt, the list goes on. It's hard for us to explain to loved ones that just because treatment is over, doesn't mean we are "over" it. If we tell you that we are not okay, please take it just as seriously as you did when we still had cancer.
2. Cancer doesn't look the same on everyone.
There is no one 'image" of someone with cancer that we all need to adhere to in order to be acknowledged as a patient. Some lose weight from chemo, others gain weight from steroids. Some lose their hair and others do not. We are all different. Not only do we not always look the same, but our experiences are not always the same. No two stories are the same. All experiences with cancer may be different.
3. Some days are just hard.
Some days are better than others, but when it comes down to it, some days are just hard. There's no inspirational quote or uplifting book that is going to change that. We appreciate it when you try, but sometimes all we need is a supportive hand to hold, and an understanding that sometimes it's just going to be hard, but that it won't stay that way forever.
4. Just because I don't look sick doesn't mean I'm not.
For some cancer patients, thinning hair and weight loss is the norm. But for others, there are no outwardly signs of suffering, which can make it very difficult when people say things like: "but you don't LOOK sick..."Those who don't "look sick" are often in a lot of pain on the inside, and it can be hard when others don't see that.
5. I am so much more than my disease.
When we get grouped and labeled as a "cancer patient" sometimes it seems like all of our other identifying factors no longer matter. It doesn't matter that we were professionals, parents, significant others, friends, activists. All that people seem to see or acknowledge is the cancer. Please remember that I am still me, I just happen to have cancer right now.
------ Your partner in your fight, Mehul Vyas.