Something that I have experienced all throughout my journey, from when I was diagnosed with cancer to even now, is people giving compliments towards myself about my bravery, courage and how great I look for someone who is or has been sick. Although these comments may come from the right place it can be hard to hear, especially when you feel as though you aren’t as strong as they think you are.
I still feel weird when I hear people tell me I am so brave and strong because not once have I ever thought I was. I believe that I didn’t get a choice to be brave or strong when diagnosed with cancer, I just had to do what was going to keep me alive. Going through some of these procedures scared me a lot and sometimes I just wanted to refuse, unfortunately having cancer as a kid I was unable to. Many times, I have not felt strong, the times I have been spewing in a bag till I cannot breathe or not being able to walk around in public without a wig, feeling scared to have procedures or even feeling scanxiety. During these times, I wondered why people complimented my strength and bravery.
I am now 9 years’ post-treatment and to this day I still find it hard to hear these comments. Although I have finished treatment I still am required to have tests, scans, blood tests and some procedures post-treatment. Because of the trauma I experienced with things such as needles and painful procedures during treatment, I am left with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. I have an intense fear of needles which makes things difficult. People have told me that I should be used to having needles by now because I have had so many, when this could not be further than the truth. I am now petrified of needles BECAUSE I have had so many and so many bad experiences with them. I feel like a weight is always on me to put on the brave face and pretend that I am okay even when I am not because I am “Strong” and “brave” and because I have already been through so much nothing else bothers me anymore. I have come to the realisation that it does not matter how much I go through or what people say, I do feel pain, I do feel scared and that is okay.
Do not let others define your strength, it is okay to be scared, feel pain and to feel week, whether you are in the middle of treatment or 10 years’ post-treatment
. You are allowed to feel the difficult emotions and thoughts, you are allowed to feel scared and sometimes you don’t feel like waking up and putting on the brave face and that is okay.
Take things at your own pace. Do not feel pressure to do things if you are not ready to do so. An example is if hair loss occurs you do not need to feel like you have to show others if you are not yet comfortable. I wore a wig while I had no hair as I felt embarrassed because of the scars on my head. If you are not ready to share your story or update others on your journey that is okay and it is important that others respect your privacy and understand that is quite draining and tiring explaining what is going on to others repeatedly.
Take care of yourself first before you look after others.