I Am Not My Cancer
My name is Brittney. I am 30 years old, and I have stage IV bladder cancer. Take another look at that sentence. I HAVE cancer, I am not my cancer.
I am a wife. A proud mom to the best corgi ever. I am an avid reader. I am a sister. I am an accomplished young professional. I am one heck of a home chef. I am a daughter. I am a fashionista. I am a friend. I am a lot of things, but I am not cancer. For the first year of my fight, I lost myself in my disease. There was no separation between being Brittney and being a cancer patient. Every conversation I had revolved around my cancer. Every social media post, every decision I made, every little detail in my life had to do with bladder cancer. To an extent, this was normal and to be expected. Here I was with this devastating diagnosis, fighting for my life and just trying to get through one day at a time. Yet, even when I was doing well, back at work, and generally back to some semblance of normal, everything still centered around my cancer.
My husband helped me change my perspective
Everything came to a peak when one evening my husband all but begged, “Can we spend 15 minutes NOT talking about cancer?” I then realized that my immersion in my disease was no longer just impacting me; my husband was feeling the effects as well. I saw that my husband had lost a wife and was now just cohabitating with a cancer patient. It was this singular moment that forced me to completely rewire my thinking and take a different approach to how I was going to move forward with my life and my cancer.
My identity before bladder cancer
I had a whole life before I was diagnosed, and more importantly, this life did not just poof into thin air once I found out I had bladder cancer. By neglecting my identity as Brittney, I was letting cancer consume every waking moment and it was starting to take a toll on myself and everyone around me. Step by step, I started reclaiming time and space to be me and not my cancer.
Making time for hobbies and self-care
It started with little things, like making time for hobbies, scheduling days “off” where there was 100% no cancer talk for the day, and even making a point for weekly self-care nights where I could just focus on myself. I also took a long hard look at my schedule as far as speaking engagements, my writing schedule and social media presence that I use to talk about bladder cancer. I’ve created a weekly schedule where I have certain times set aside to do this cancer work, and then I have to be off the clock as far as my No Bladder Don’t Matter persona.
Finding a balance
Finding this balance didn’t happen overnight. It took a few months to find a way to wear my cancer hat and be able to take it off and live my non-cancer life. There are times I still struggle and I go down the rabbit hole of losing myself to being a cancer patient. Sometimes this is triggered by a not great doctor’s appointment, or a rotten day. It's normal and I’m sure all of us have those days from time to time.
Now, when I have a chance to speak to someone newly diagnosed, one of the first pieces of advice I give is to remember, “You HAVE cancer, cancer is not something you are.”
Have your views towards bladder removal changed since you were diagnosed?