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/
Have you ever had a friend who made you feel like a burden? A friend who made you feel like you should feel grateful that they took the time out of their day to respond to your text or meet you for coffee? Or a friend who was only there when it was convenient for them. Have you had a friend that’s mostly around when they need something but disappear when you need them?
Spoiler alert: They’re just not that into you.
I think a lot of us fall into this trap. We have a person that we like and consider a friend, or in some cases a potential boyfriend or girlfriend and we will do anything for them. I’m guilty of this for sure. But I am learning that sometimes you need to evaluate who your true friends are in life to protect yourself a little. I have found myself in so many “friendships” or “pseudo relationships” with people who barely cared about me at all. I would do anything for these people but eventually, I had to realize that they would seldom lift a finger for me.
The levels of effort we were putting into our friendships were vastly different. I was there pouring everything I had into them. Making myself available whenever they wanted or needed. They weren’t doing the same, however. I was prioritizing people who barely thought about me at all.
A good example of this was a “friend” I had in high school. I would hear people say negative things about her and I would defend her endlessly. I wouldn’t believe a single one of the rumors because she was my friend and I liked her. It took me until the end of high school to really look at that friendship though. I realized that I was there for her whenever she needed. Any favor, homework, crisis management she needed I was right there. But she wasn’t there for me. We only hung out when she needed something from me. It was never just for fun. Never because she liked me. I was doing everything I could for this girl to try to make her want to be friends with me, and she didn’t care at all.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the only time I’ve done that to myself. Friendships like this can leave you feeling worthless and stupid. I spent so much effort on these people and even the best of me wasn’t good enough. Eventually, you realize you’re either being used or they are friends with you out of pity and you feel miserable. Even worse is the fact that quitting the habit is so hard. You care about this person and you wanted them in your life. Accepting that they don’t want you is difficult and painful. In some cases, you are almost addicted to them. There was a reason why you stuck around through all the garbage before. You cared.
So how do you fix this? It’s not easy. If you think you are strong enough for the clean break do that. But personally, I have found that phasing these people out is the best way to do this.
Make a rule for yourself. Something like “I will only contact them once a month” or “I won’t talk to them/see them unless they make the effort to talk to me.” Put the ball in their court. This allows them to have the chance to miss you. Maybe they will wake up and realize how valuable you are to them. Or maybe you will get to see just how little they care.
This clarity hurts but is helpful in healing. Hopefully, as you slowly phase them out of your life you will begin to crave their presence in your life less and less. It isn’t a perfect solution but cutting these people out of your life who are only bringing you down will help you in the long term.
Right now you are allowing them to define your worth and are left feeling inadequate. You deserve to be loved, cherished, and cared about. You deserve friends who are as enthusiastic about you as you are about them. Don’t let people who don’t appreciate your value make you miserable. If you have a person or people in your life that fit this description give it some serious thought.
You deserve real friendships and real relationships. If they want to talk to you they will. In the meantime focus on loving yourself, growing closer with friends who value you, and making new friends who will love you for who you are, not how you can benefit them. Trust me I’m still rereading my own advice. It isn’t easy but it works!