Summary: Cancer on television is shiny, bright and treatment is always successful. The characters portrayed in commercials and your favorite TV drama shows seemingly never get sick, spend hours upon hours in the bathroom, or turn odd shades of pale and grey on chemo. A cancer diagnosis also brings out every issue within your relationships you never knew existed before you ever have a chance to prevent it from happening, so you are not usually surrounded by supporters- as the TV would have you believe. Once diagnosed, you might find yourself wondering what you did wrong or why everyone seems to be avoiding you and people you run into on the street think you’re simply not that ill. Here’s an article that touches on both of these aspects of cancer- the television portrayal, and the real-life feelings and situations that occur.
A cancer diagnosis brings out every issue within your relationships you never knew existed before you ever have a chance to prevent it from happening. Once diagnosed, you might find yourself wondering what you did wrong or why everyone seems to be avoiding you.
To the public, the face of cancer is often a smiling woman who looks amazing with glowing skin, usually without hair. She’s incredibly bold and brave; ready to take on the world. She’s a strong, steadfast fighter. She’s the lady in the viral videos dancing in the operating room before her cancer surgery. She’s surrounded by masses of people who love and support her, and she has an incredible, open relationship with her medical team. She attends numerous fundraising events all while wearing her “Cancer Survivor” shirt, which her cancer care team captain made for her. The public face of cancer is a victory. An almost always, victory. Cancer is the disease that makes mere men and women heroes to those around them because their courage levels are so high.
But is this portrayal at all correct?
The private face of cancer is a person alone, too sick and too tired to get up and out of bed. She has skin lesions and painful mouth sores. He has bleeding and excruciating hemorrhoids. Her bones ache constantly, and she cannot be more than a few seconds from any bathroom; although she prefers her own. He’s terrified and fears that he has lost the life he knew. She fears she will never be sexual or intimate again. They miss being social, leaving the house for something other than medical, relationships, eating all the food all of the time, and they miss not having to worry about cancer. They are depressed, worried, and possible suicidal.
Many doctors report that this second representation is more accurate when it comes to the face of the typical cancer patient.
Cancer is an isolating disease that many people will face. Some will need and want to discuss their worst-case scenario, maybe even plan for it. Some will want to ask about pain, how bad it will get, and mortality. Some will discuss how they want to refuse treatment. Some will mourn their lost selves, while a lot of others do not want to hear any of that. For those patients who have stage four cancers and they are trying to explain their situation to others, many people will simply say, “do not give up hope!” Or, “you can get through this.” “Just pray, be strong,” or the favorite, “you can beat this.” These comments can have negative effects on the cancer patient, bringing on feelings of burden and abandonment.
Even those comments are better than being abandoned by family and friends, and those who were close to you before cancer struck. Those small comments are better than having family members stop calling and never asking about your health, or your life. Those simple comments are better than having friends turn their backs on your because your life has become “too hard.”
The further we go into the cancer community, one of the more common things we hear is about the experience and feelings of abandonment. These feelings are extremely common with cancer patients, and many report dealing with multiple instances of feeling this way during their journey. From our community, we learn that many times people abandon us forever, but others only disappear for a few months, or years, and once life calms back down, they pop right back in as if on cue. But the phone never rings, not even a ping for a text message.
Why do these situations arise?
When we stop long enough to think about the reasons that someone might walk out of our lives at the very time we need them, we begin to wonder about what caused this to happen. After listening to so many stories and feelings of abandonment from cancer patients, many determine that their missing family members or friends are simply terrified of facing cancer, and death. Others cannot take seeing their loved one, you, so sick, weak, and fighting for your life.
Others found that after their pain from the rejection ceased, they found they were grateful to have “lost” this person because their narcissistic tendencies were heavier than they ever fully knew, until they were gone. And others just do not have the capacity to care about others as they do themselves. The real truth is, many people have their own “cancers” in their lives, that might not be the disease of cancer at all. Life is a challenge for everyone, in a multitude of ways, and we should remember this when judging others.
In these moments, we need to remember that we all handle things, illnesses and life differently. There is no real right or wrong way to do this thing called life. Keep in mind that if these people to leave your life temporarily, they may return once again, and you can then start anew. The silver lining of cancer can be the truth in your relationships, because those who are die-hard, true you supporters do not disappear. In fact, those friends and family members become your light in the dark. Those friends and family, their support will help see you through to the end.
So, while the journey with cancer is really never like it’s portrayed on television, your journey will be personal to your own life and your own experiences. Losing family and friends along the way is rough, but a natural part of the journey, and that’s just another thing cancer patients and the chronically ill face.