As you’ve lived with disease, have you ever had friends or family members tell you to stay positive? That everything is going to be okay?
The day I was diagnosed with cancer, one of my uncles called me. He told me, “You are going to be fine. Everything is going to be okay.”
I had another friend email me and say, “This is just going to be a blip on the radar.”
I was talking to another friend shortly after I was diagnosed, and she said, “Thyroid cancer is easy to treat. This is just not going to be a big deal for you.”
I understand that they were all speaking to me out of a desire to encourage me. They all felt that I needed to embrace positivity. Here’s the thing, though. After each of those conversations, I felt worse. Instead of feeling warm and fuzzy as was intended, each person left me feeling invalidated. And besides, how did they know I was going to be okay? Why did they have the right to suggest to me that cancer was not going to be a big deal?
I’ve come to understand that some people deal with hardship by staying positive all the time. I’ve also come to understand that I do not operate that way AT ALL. Not even a little bit. I don’t mean that I’m a “the glass is always half empty” kind of person, but for me personally, it is not healthy to embrace positivity all the live-long day.
I have cancer. Nothing about that exactly screams festive and therefore I don’t wear my party hat all the time. For me to actually live my life, I find facing reality head-on to be more cathartic. Right after I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t want to be surrounded with choruses of “Cheer Up, Charlie.” I wanted to CRY and I wanted friends and family to cry with me.
When I get ready for a scan or other important appointment, I don’t prepare by thinking, “I am cancer-free. I am rid of cancer. Everything is okay.” I prepare by thinking about the facts and ALL the possible outcomes. I know I’m going to feel anxious and scared as I wait for the results. And that’s normal. That’s okay. Those feelings remind that I’m still human; I’m still alive. I’ve learned that if I surround myself with people who support me through those feelings, I can move on to the next phase of healing much quicker.
Another cancer survivor once said, “My goal as someone living in cancer’s shadow is not always to be positive.” If there is anything living with cancer has taught me it’s that we have a wide range of emotions for a reason. When I allow myself to actually feel those emotions I am allowing myself to heal. When cancer makes me want to cry, I cry. And those tears are healing tears. When cancer makes me angry, I slam doors and punch walls. When I am happy in spite of cancer, I laugh and make jokes. However, if I never allow myself to cry those healing tears, I will never be able to laugh.
ALL of our emotions are valid and ALL of our emotions are important in healing and living. It is okay to cry when you’re sad. Just remember that sadness is just one of the emotions we are gifted with. There is nothing weak about crying but continue to move through your range of emotions–keep moving forward after the tears. It’s okay to be happy even though you’re living with disease. Allow yourself to experience those moments of joy for they are just as healing as the tears. Surround yourself with people who will support you and feel with you instead of trying to force feelings upon you.
That’s what Dear Thyroid is about; that’s the kind of community you’ve helped to create—we cry together, we laugh together, and we heal together.
Xs and Os,
What is healing for you? Do you like to stay positive all the time? Do you find crying to be healing? What works for you?