Sunday, 20 January 2013

Making my Battle Public

One question I am often asked of by people is why do I get as"loud" as I do about my battle with cancer, and why I don't, or rather can't move on from it, or rather not talk about it so much. I don't intend for this post to criticize, or tell people what is the right or wrong way to talk (or not) about your battle with cancer, this is merely my opinion. How anyone deals with their cancer story is their own decision and are more than entitled to it.

It is true that some people, when they finish treatment for cancer, don't want to be around it anymore, don't want to discuss it, don't want to hear about it. This I completely understand. Why you would want to think about something that horrible and painful in your life again is a bit confusing at times. But for some reasons some people do it.

When I was undergoing treatment, I did my best to hide my side effects and how bad I felt from most of the people around me. It was a complete 180 turn from where I am at these days. I did not want to discuss with anyone outside of my doctors and even then, only when I had to. The big thing for me, was I wasn't ready to tell people, and I didn't want them to worry. I didn't want people to see how weak I had become. I wasn't one of those people who could get up on stage or run marathons while undergoing chemo and be an inspiration to everyone around. I was physically unable to. I had emotional stress from the situation too, and I didn't feel comfortable talking. I was scared to talk to people about it. I still am uncomfortable in many instances.

I am sure many people feel the same way. It is just one of many ways that people go into a self preservation mode, managing things any way they can. Your battle with cancer is your own business. And if you don't want people to know about it that is your decision (I am not trying to pressure anyone to go out and tell the world everything). All I know is when I was sick, scared, and not doing so great, I sure did appreciate the people who were out there, showing their scars and sharing their stories so that progress could be made for cancer patient treatment and care. I have an even greater appreciation for those people now.

So this is why I want my battle to be public. It is why I write this blog, why I participate in fundraisers, volunteer, and identify myself as a cancer survivor at any given opportunity. In a way, it is for old sick Eamonn who used to sit in those beds, but in more ways it is for everyone who is still sitting in those beds. It is an awful place to be, a place I never fully understood until I was in one myself. If it gives anyone a bit of hope it is worth it to me. It helps me feel like I am making a difference. But I also appreciate those people who don't want to speak up. I know the kinds of physical and emotional pain they are going through. It is hard for anyone person to shoulder that load.

I want people to know about side effects. I want people to know that they continue after treatment is over and even when the cancer is long gone. Things such as physical difficulties and mental problems can carry on for quite sometime.

One of the hardest conversations I have ever had was with my family. When I was done treatment everyone was "happy it was over" and was ready to move on. They clearly did not want to talk about it. Again, I get that completely. But it wasn't over (still is not) for me. I think this is why it is necessary for some people to remain "loud" about it. So the issues don't get brushed aside and can be dealt with. I have learned that for me, bottling up my feelings and emotions about my experience with cancer does nothing to help me.

I will be honest, this approach, my approach, does not work well all the time. In many cases it has left  me alone and completely by myself. This is not ideal and very discouraging at times. I do not necessarily feel like I did something wrong, but you have to second guess yourself. This is exactly why I didn't speak up a lot when I was sick. Fear of being alone when I relied on people so much.

I understand that being very open about these topics can push people away, which is a major drawback. Knowing when to shut up about it is something I am learning. I don't want to make people uncomfortable, and I don't want to diminish issues by being "that guy" who always talks about cancer. Learning how to properly balance these things is something I am still working on. It will most likely never be a perfect balance (I tend to get worked up sometimes when talking cancer....).

At the end of the day, I have met a lot of great people trying to be an advocate for cancer patients/survivors/care givers. I have met a lot of really great people trying their best to help out anyway they can which I am sure I never would of met otherwise. I really enjoy seeing the different ways people are making a difference, and while I don't always have the same ways, I can appreciate what everyone is trying to do, and I try to support them anyway I can.

The biggest "Pro" is I have met so many cancer fighters and survivors by speaking up, and I think that has meant the most to me. They are truly a great group of people making the best of a bad situation. And I really enjoy hearing different opinions and seeing the different ways people deal with this, I find it very inspiring, and I hope my voice helps people too. I think this out weighs any "Con" for me.

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