How will you tell your story? What language will you use to convey the road trip of your life? It is impossible, (thankfully) to relay every second, minute, hour, day and year by year of your experience on this ‘blue marble’. Billions of us, take full advantage of platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram, to share our digitally captured lives. In 140 characters, humanity can tweet useful information or the contents of our respective navels.
Your story is now the abridged version. What are your watershed moments to date? What would you leave out? How would you reiterate the challenging moments, the bleak times? What adjectives will you use? This is of particular importance to those of us that have experienced a life challenging experience, like cancer. What will your response to the innocent, ‘How are you now, post treatment?’.
My bedside challenged surgeon suggested cheerfully as a compensation to undertaking chemotherapy that I could make friends on the oncology ward. There was a split second when I envisaged slamming his small oblong head into his desk drawer and repeatedly attempting to shut it flush to the table. I was blessed with a full deck of wonderful friends and I wasn’t into soliciting for more, especially at the price of chemotherapy.
Annoyingly, he was right. I have been fortunate to connect with some wonderful people during my treatment and recovery, that I doubt I would not have met otherwise. It has been comforting to share with others the unique experience of diagnosis and various cancer treatments. Your loved ones and friends attempt to understand and hopefully provide support and comfort, but it is a road best understood unfortunately by the travelling upon it.
During this period of my life, I have accessed online breast cancer networks especially in search of other women dealing with a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis. I have at times found the comments made on these forums, too sharp with anger and broken by sadness of a poor prognosis or secondary cancer reoccurences. I prefer to focus my attention on positive statistics as the Internet is full of ‘out dated’ data and yet to be contradicted opinions. Every day there is an update that can bring concern that your treatment regime and choices may not be sufficient to ‘cure’ you.
There had been an instant soul connection with some women who also prefer to walk the road less travelled. These women do not go placidly into the allopathic model. They are armed with questions and resistance. They laugh loudly and often seemingly inappropriately. They refuse to adopt the metaphor of ‘journey’, do not wish to be surrounded by candy pink reminders of their short straw, and wear their chemo caps in public. I like these women. They remind me of myself.
It is essential to be armed with language for re-entry, so that you can speak of this chapter and silence the fear of re-occurance inferred by questions like, ‘Your alright now?’ and statements like, ‘Your prognosis is good?’, said with a raised eyebrow.
I am a survivor. I don’t need to wait five years to own that title, especially in a landscape that is hesitant to use the word ‘cured’. I will tell my story of transition, transformation and transcendence in my cancer free state to those that I wish to. I will not speak of my experience in detail to others. There are libraries and Google for tips on how to ‘stay free of cancer’. It is not my responsibility to inform them. I do not need to mount a case for their ‘approval’. I claim the gift of a new reality of awareness and active conscious choice. How am I? I am wonderfully well and extremely hopeful that I will, God willing, remain so.