I realised very early on whilst doing this work, that I was extremely privileged. People were sharing with me some of their most personal thoughts and feelings. Many never become public, but on rare occasions some do, and this is one of those. But the writer wishes to remain anonymous. Sometimes I have to ‘tidy them up,’ pre-publication, but in this instance I haven’t changed a thing. In the next few paragraphs you will read of some very powerful emotions. Some of which we would have all experienced at some stage. Please be warned that if you are feeling particularly fragile today it might be better not to read on. As this piece is particularly raw.
“When I was first diagnosed with bowel cancer I was relatively emotionless. I knew deep down I had it. But I made myself some promises. The main two were that, I should be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, YES you gave it your best shot, you did not stop treatment and took everything they have thrown at you and more. Never, ever allow myself to become a “victim” of cancer.
Like most people dealing with their own cancer, I have had multiple chemotherapy sessions, immunotherapy sessions, and operations and had to take drugs that are most unpleasant. But somewhere during the last year I forgot my promise of not being a victim. Instead not only did I make myself a victim, but worst of all I became a conceited arrogant victim, with a condescending attitude and I didn’t spot it until quite recently.
People ask me how I am and how chemotherapy is and they genuinely care and because I know most of them don’t have cancer (although the 1:2 ratio, would suggest most people have / will have experience of this disease), I find myself giving answers such as:
‘Oh, it is really brutal, but I don’t want to bore you with the details!’
‘You’d need to have chemotherapy to understand what it’s like!’
‘I would wish this in my worst enemy because it’s so bad!’
The arrogance and self-pitying whingeing victimhood, dripping off my tongue like honey from a pillaged beehive. Then, chatting to a work colleague who I have the utmost respect for and who is one of the nicest people you would ever meet, this happened:
“Hows the chemo going?
Chemo, is brutal. It sucks your soul out.
I won’t bore you with the details of chemo. But I understand why people just stop having treatment and let the cancer kill them – put it that way.
My sister went through it so I’ve got a pretty good idea.
Ah ok, I’m sorry to hear that. Then you know how bad it is. I didn’t know she had cancer, I didn’t know you had a sister to be honest. Has she recovered? What cancer did she have?
It was a long time ago. She was 16 and had a brain tumor.
Bloody hell, those ones are pretty bad. Sorry to ask but she is still alive I take it?
Nope she didn’t make it. I think if it had been now she may have had a better chance as the treatment of brain tumours has moved a long way in 30 years.
Jesus, I’m sorry mate. I really didn’t know. The treatments have got better, but they are still pretty brutal. 30 years ago, the chemo must have been awful for her.
Yeah it was grim. But a long time ago now “
This conversation hit me like a lightning bolt and shook me. The arrogance of my remarks, the self-pitying victim I am portraying and the condescending undertone of me thinking “I have more experience of this than you” almost as if that makes me the better person. It’s actually a shocking read.
But the candid reply from my colleague, who was willing to share this with me in an off the cuff conversation put me firmly in my place. I am ashamed of myself and of this conversation as I should be, as I thought I was better than that. I have been acting the victim, I was acting like I know more than others, that I have insight. But in a sea full of lobsters, there is always a bigger lobster.
I failed in myself “promise” of not being a victim and instead became one of those people who I despise. I have been looking for pity, I have been looking sympathy and yet I don’t need those things and I never wanted those things. Somewhere I lost myself and my determination and that conversation was a slap in the face to wake up. So I will make myself some promises. Never, ever allow myself to become a ‘victim’ of cancer. I should be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, YES you gave it your best shot; you did not stop treatment and took everything they have thrown at you and more.”
As you know, on this site you will read the realities of cancer, with no sugar coating. This seems what my readers want and find helpful. I would like to say a massive thank you to the author of this piece for their courage to share such personal feelings. If there is anything YOU would like to share with the Community, please feel free to get in contact below.