Reflections

Being Stoic Sucks

Stoic definition: a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.

Cancer has a way of seeping into everything you do. How you eat, drink, walk and even breathe. It is also a very personal experience. How I feel and how the next person feels can be so different yet so similar at the same time.

The thing I didn’t anticipate was as tough as the physical side effects are to cope with, NOTHING prepares you for the emotional upheaval. It’s been two years of constantly doing the best I can to cope. Also, I don’t say anything until I’m about to explode from being so overwhelmed by it all. It’s the stiff upper lip thing. I didn’t realise it was so ingrained until I got diagnosed.

I have a tendency of only going to the doctor when I’m in so much pain, there’s no other option. I have nothing against them, they’re lovely people. I just hope if I can stay still for one more hour, I can go to work and then go shopping. I sometimes treat my illness like an inconvenience to my social life. It kind of is but this isn’t the best way to look at it.

How are you feeling today?”

It’s a funny thing, cancer. Unless you’re rocking the bold look, it’s hard to navigate life knowing you have it but you can’t see it. Sometimes, if I’ve had a good sleep and managed breakfast, I can get so much done that I’ve genuinely forgotten I have cancer. Then the tumours chuck a tantrum and go all spastic on you while you’re watching ‘worth it’ on the train.

How I feel depends on the last 5 minutes. If I’ve just taken my pain medication, I’m slowly waking up and getting myself psyched for another day. If I’m at work, I’m ok. If I’ve just got back from work, please don’t ask. If it’s any other time of day, I’m tired. Tired and happy, tired and overwhelmed, tired and confused and tired but feeling cute. General equation for my life at the moment:

Tired + location x time of day = ME!

Most days I would love to say, “Hey, can we go to the beach?”, “Can we go for a coffee?”, “I want to go clubbing”, “I really need a hug” but I can’t. I just grab a coffee and go.

I work in retail. It’s the best job to distract me because you have about 10 things going on at the same time. Also, customers want to be served and all your energy is focused on providing that service. I’ve also mastered the customer service smile (I think). I’ve watched enough America’s Next Top Model to understand ‘smize’ but if I ‘smize’ effectively remains to be seen. No ones complained so I guess it’s ok. It’s the perfect distraction from all the cancer noise in my head.

There is a saying though that depending on how temperamental the tumours are (they are literally mini toddlers in my belly sometimes), it can come across as insulting but you know they mean well.

“Stay positive- got to keep positive”

I’ve banned people from saying this to me. I sometimes find this statement infuriating. What am I to be positive about? That I’m alive? Do you think being alive is a positive experience right now? If this is the only thing you can think of saying, just ask- “How are you feeling right now?” Maybe they’ll be honest or maybe they’ll give you an answer so you can get lost.

Help as an action is very helpful, not only to the person receiving but also the person giving. Help as a thought can give you a wonderful sense of connection. It assures both people that for that moment, everything is going to be ok.

Help can also be seen as an act of sympathy, even an inconvenience. To be able to create a safe environment where you feel fine to ask for help isn’t easy. To feel safe is to trust that it’s not going to get thrown back at you later on. To feel safe that if you do ask, it doesn’t have any conditions on it. Sometimes, it’s safe for your mental and emotional well being to do it yourself. But then you’re physically destroying yourself. Then what?

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