Recently, I was inadvertently pulled into a Twitter conversation about an article in which the writer had proclaimed she believed all things happen for a reason. There was then further discussion about anger and how it is often considered somewhat of a “sorry” emotion, certainly not one most people would want attached to them or to be their legacy. No one wants the “angry person” label to be the only one they are remembered for.
But I do not believe anger, in and of itself, is a bad emotion. And I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I just don’t.
I respect that writer’s viewpoints. All I want in return is to have alternate viewpoints respected as well, including mine. And yours.
Some of you might have read my recent post in which I shared how a book club reacted to my memoir. In a nutshell, there was a 50/50 split, with half liking it and half, not so much. Half the group felt I was too negative, too angry or too bitter. As I mentioned in the post, I am fine with that split. Not everyone sees her/his cancer experience as I see mine, nor should they.
However one comment in particular has continued to pester me and after that Twitter discussion I mentioned, I started thinking about it again, hence this post.
The comment was this one:
I felt profoundly sad that Nancy isolated herself from every opportunity to create a positive event in her life. This should have been a bonding time between she and daughter, she and her sisters and she and other patients. If you want to live, sometimes you have to fight for your life. I get a hospital news letter which occasionally runs a cancer patient’s story. Your story and theirs – very similar. Choose life no matter the struggle.
This is a very interesting comment and I appreciate the frankness and good spirit in which it was given. However, I also find it troubling that someone might suggest that my cancer experience should have been an opportunity to create a positive event in my life.
I do not understand this logic. But I am not surprised by it because this “finding the positive” narrative continues to be the prevalent one in Cancer Land.
I have no issue with someone else seeing her cancer experience as a means to a positive. If this sort of re-framing works for some, fine.
But why the unspoken (or often not unspoken), inference that my way is inferior?
In addition, the person who left that comment has no idea what my relationships are with dear daughter, my sisters (or my brother) and other patients. She has no clue what bonds do or do not exist between others and myself. In addition, there is the suggestion that if you want to live, you have to fight for your life. Hmm, don’t get me started on that one!
The final observation about that particular comment is that she went on to say she reads a hospital newsletter with stories by cancer patients that are similar to mine.
Doesn’t this in itself say there are others that feel the same as me?
I continue to be baffled by this societal expectation for cancer patients and survivors to above all else, stay positive and search for the lesson in cancer and if you don’t find one, you’re doing something wrong.
Cancer is isolating enough without others making the patient feel even more so because she/he isn’t living up to the gold standard of how to do cancer. Finding little or nothing positive and/or no lesson in cancer does not mean you’ve “failed” some cancer test.
Before cancer, I had a darn good grasp of what was important to me in life. As I have said again and again, I did not need a wake-up call about that.
And the suggestion that my friends who are living with metastatic breast cancer should somehow believe there’s a reason for their situation, is beyond my comprehension.
Sometimes there just isn’t one.
In this case (and in many others), saying everything happens for a reason, sounds downright insulting, does it not?
I try hard not to impose on others my thoughts/feelings etc regarding my cancer experience.
I have had no epiphany. Again, I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I’m not a better person because of the big C, and hell yes, I’m angry sometimes. It’s cancer, for crying out loud, not some grand opportunity to reinvent myself.
I respect the right of others to feel they’ve changed for the better, or to proclaim they’ve had an epiphany, or whatever it might be.
But why can’t my way (and perhaps yours) be respected as well?
As far as I’m concerned, cancer sucks. Period. I will not give it credit for things it deserves no credit for. I will never sugarcoat my experience to conform to an unrealistic narrative I do not relate to.
If some feel this means I’m too angry, too negative, too bitter or all of the above, so be it.
I get to do cancer survivorship my way.
So do you.
Do you believe everything happens for a reason? (If you do, I’d really like to hear from you)
Do you feel you are a better person since your cancer diagnosis?
Why do you think there is resistance to accepting other ways of “doing cancer” that don’t follow the more generally accepted societal narrative?