It’s been two years and the words ‘I had cancer’ don’t get any easier to say. I still meet new people and fumble over the right way to say ‘I had cancer and it threw me a loop and I’m still recovering’ when they ask questions about my life, my work, my day. It’s silly really, because as a society, the cancer card seems to be the closest thing to a ‘get out of jail free card’. It’s perhaps the one most valid excuse to get out of anything, the one reason that we will use to excuse any behaviour. But I still feel funny about using it.
Sometimes, and bear with me here because I’ve never said this out loud before, sometimes I feel like my cancer is less valid than other people’s. I know, it sounds mental. A lot of doctors told me I was lucky after my diagnosis, and I understand why. I never had to go through chemo, I never had to go through radiation, hell, by the time I knew I’d had cancer it was already gone. I feel guilty equating my journey with my health with the hellish experiences we all know someone whose had.
But I’m trying to remind myself, my experiences aren’t any less valid. If you look in my medical file, you’ll still see the words ‘malignant carcinoma’. You’ll see surgery upon surgery, scan upon scan, blood test after blood test. I lived with my tumour for years, feeling it’s effects without even knowing it was there. I still struggle with the after effects of my tumour today. I still live in fear, wondering if every twang of pain, or new symptom means the cancer is back.
It’s easy to believe I should be better by now. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do more, to be more normal, when in actual fact I can’t. My life right now is what it is and forcing my tired, broken body into more than it can handle is only going to be counterintuitive. I need to cut myself a little more slack, show myself a little more compassion.
And honestly? I think I need to be a little more honest with myself. I had cancer, that’s my truth, and if I can’t do what a normal 25 year old can? Well that’s okay. In a bizarre way, I think I need to be more vocal about my health, to normalise it, and accept it.
So hi, I’m Jaye, I had cancer, and I’m still struggling. Nice to meet you.