Invisible Is Not Invalid

Bladder cancer is “invisible.” For many of us, there are no outward signs of our disease. There are exceptions, and some of us present as terribly ill, but many of us have an internal disease and it doesn’t show.

My only symptom was bloody urine

From the beginning, my only symptom was bloody urine. It started as a light pink, and the ER attending credited it to possible dehydration. Being well-hydrated relieved the symptoms, and I showed no evidence of disease. I do not recall the exact time span, but it wasn’t long and the symptom recurred. This time my urine was bright red and there was clotting. A visit to my primary physician got a referral to the urologist.

No one could see my cancer

The urologist uttered those three little words that have altered all of our worlds. “You have cancer” - and so it began. The problem, I couldn’t see it. Nobody could see it. Unless I told people, there was nothing to say, “I have cancer.” The anxiety, the depression, the constant fear. All of these things came out of nowhere and made no sense because I had no evidence of disease.

Justifying my feelings

To the outside world, the changes in me were out of left field. I struggle to feel as though my illness is worth being affected by. On the days when I am quiet and withdrawn, those close to me know, but to others, I am sure I appear moody. I am often left trying to justify myself to myself.

My attitude doesn't match how I feel about others

The craziest part is that I would never dream of asking someone else to justify their needs. The people I know who have and who are fighting this disease, or any disease for that matter, need understanding and kindness and grace. I need to pull up my bootstraps and get over it. The oddity of my attitude never fails to baffle me. I have nothing but respect and admiration for others who are taking their best care of themselves, but I very often feel weak and feeble at my own struggling.

Being kind to ourselves

Writing this and proofreading it makes me cringe. Why would I or anyone speak harshly to themselves over something they are so understanding of in others? If you are guilty of this, ask yourself, “How would I speak to someone else?” If there is a difference in how we speak to ourselves, why? Why are we willing to be soft and nurturing outward and judgmental inward?

We don't have to prove ourselves

The fact that this cancer is invisible does not make it invalid! Our struggles do not need to be seen to be real. We do not have to “prove” our illness to anyone…including ourselves. Show yourself the kindness you would show someone you met who was surviving. Extend grace to yourself in equal measure to that which you would show a loved one.

You are allowed to have needs and fears

In as much as I am able, I give you permission to have needs and fears. I give you permission to your individual method of coping and experiencing this challenge. I sent you invisible validation in equal measure to your invisible cancer. I also receive the same for myself.

May this be a holiday gift worthy of your amazing life, my very best wishes to all who might read this. A warm hug and kind regards I send to all.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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