So yes another cancer post. I promised this blog wouldn’t be all about cancer but it is definitely going to play a part. Cancer has played a part in my life but does not define it as a whole.
A few days after a CT scan revealed a tumor in my abdomen I began my “cancer journey” at MD Anderson. The experience of entering the hospital and being surrounded by so many sick people was surreal. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
Around the hospital, signs read “You became a survivor the day you were diagnosed.” It was a catchy slogan for a cancer hospital. Good branding, but not really something that I gave much thought to in the chaos.
Fast forward through finding out that my tumor was, in fact, pancreatic cancer and having four surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the damage the initial surgery caused.
I returned to daily life wondering how exactly I was supposed to navigate this world as a “survivor”. I certainly didn’t feel like I earned it. I was a whiney difficult brat through most of my treatment. My misery radiated around me and I made a difficult situation worse with my poor attitude.
Inspiring cancer survivors are supposed to have remained hopeful through their treatments. They do things like dance during chemo and run marathons shortly after. Good cancer survivors don’t spend months wallowing in self-pity and dealing with severe bouts of depression. I wasn’t one of those people.
I also didn’t want to be labeled “that girl who had cancer.” I wanted to be known for other things, not some illness I didn’t handle well. Meeting new people, making new friends, and dating all presented new challenges. Should I mention it and if so when?
I still don’t have a great answer on that. It doesn’t seem right to start a Tinder date off with “Hi I’m Paige and I had cancer.” All I can picture with that is the amusing image of boys running for the hills. Not that I wasn’t good at chasing boys away before but this would be a new level, even for me.
For a while, I stuck with almost a “No New Friends” attitude. It was Drake, me and only our day ones. I felt like a different person and that scared me. I only wanted to be near people who knew me before so that they would know I wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t a great policy but it was where I was at during that time.
I’m more open to new friends and possibilities now. I have met a lot of great people in the past year or so and I am grateful for those relationships. Looking forward, I am excited to meet new people. I promise I’m friendly now guys! Please contact me if you want to talk about anything!
While I still don’t open conversations with the whole “I had cancer” line, I have been trying to embrace my status as a survivor a little more. I am more comfortable with it now. I don’t like keeping secrets. My illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Realizing that took longer than I’d like to admit though.
I am also learning to forgive myself for the way I acted in the midst of the worst period of my life. I was drowning at the time and I handled it as well as I could. While yes I could’ve been a little less grumpy it isn’t the end of the world. There is no manual for being a survivor. There is no formula you have to follow to be one. The only thing you have to do is survive, which I am lucky that I did, even if I was downer while I was in the process of fighting it.
So now I’m trying to be more open and let people in a little bit. If you have challenges you need to talk about I would encourage you to share your story. You can share with your friends, you can message me privately, or you can utilize social media to create an internet community around you. Speak up, there are people out there who listen and care.
PS: If you or someone you know is a young adult cancer survivor (Diagnosed between 18-39) definitely look into First Descents. It is a great program and really helped me process things a lot. Here is the link https://firstdescents.org/out-living-it/