Last updated: April 2023
You're so brave. I'm so inspired by you. You're doing so great. You are so strong - blah, blah, blah. I have heard all of this and pretty much every version of "proud," "inspired," etc. Now don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the words of affirmation and encouragement.
I am very glad that my public-facing self is generally upbeat and snarky. I don't, however, want people to mistake a good face for me being this perky, perfect cancer inspiration. I want to balance my positivity with reality. And the truth is, I am not brave.
Everybody responds to cancer differently
"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have," I remember finding this quote a few days after I was diagnosed. I was lying in my hospital bed, wondering how to tell everyone what was happening.
Fighting cancer isn't brave. You don't fight because you want to be strong. You fight because you want to live. You fight because you have no other choice. Everyone battles differently.
Some people battle with quiet grace. They keep it personal and may never choose to talk about it publicly. Some people are loud and proud. They do cancer walks, they organize fundraisers, and they shout from the rooftops, bringing awareness to the cause. Some people are angry. They are downright pissed off at the situation. Cancer can go kick rocks for all they care. Don't ask them about it. You may not like the answer you get. Some people like me survive on a bit of snark and morbid humor. Our philosophy is, "Sometimes all you can do is laugh."
Here's the thing - all these types of warriors have a valid experience. These are all healthy coping mechanisms. More often than not, we feel all these emotions at different times and maybe even all at once. Cancer is very personal. Everyone has a very specific diagnosis, treatment, and life with their cancer.
Just downright angry (sometimes)
I have days that I scream and cry. Sometimes I am angry at my ostomy. I'm angry at my situation. I'm angry at my medical bills and just downright angry.
I have moments of wanting to find ways to bring awareness to my specific cancer because, obviously, it is important to me. Every now and then, I feel at peace with what I am going through and try to keep certain things close to my heart.
Most days, though, I have my usual snarky humor on display. I try my best to be candid and real about my experience.
A new plane of enlightenment
It is my hope to remove this glamorous view the movies give of cancer. I'm looking at you, A Walk to Remember and Fate In Our Stars.
I am not ok with supporters believing that cancer patients get diagnosed, and BOOM! They are suddenly on this other plane of enlightenment and peace. We are not someone you pin on your inspiration board. We are not brave. We are doing what we have to do to see one more day.
Does this mean you can't give these words of praise and encouragement to cancer patients? No! Give us all the positive words you can and mean them. But also, don't be discouraged if a cancer patient doesn't always respond in the way you may think they will.
The perception of bravery in bladder cancer
None of us chose this battle, but we are here, fighting tooth and nail, not because we want to, but because we have to. As my mom reminds me, "It's just a bad day, not a bad life." For all the bad days that have happened and will come. There are many more good days.
Cancer warriors, be kind to yourselves. Your feelings are valid, and you are amazing for just doing life the best you can. Supporters, remember we are unwilling warriors. We love you and your support - we might just be jerks today.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?