As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, there are probably lots of articles and stories about gratitude coming your way. Gratitude is pretty much the word of the month every November, right? People love to talk about what they’re grateful for and how they practice gratitude. And of course, we often hear people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer say they are more grateful in general following their cancer diagnosis. Cancer was a wake-up call. They are more grateful now for everything.
As you might guess, I don’t really go along with the notion that we must feel more grateful after cancer knocks on our door. I have a tendency to resist many of the societal expectations on how “to do” cancer, including this one. Sometimes I wonder why this is. But I guess that’s a post for another day.
Without a doubt, I am grateful for many people and many things, but I was grateful before cancer too. I didn’t need cancer as a wake-up call. I didn’t need cancer to make me appreciate my life, my family and my friends. I appreciated them before and I appreciate them now. I like to think that even if cancer had not reared its ugly head, I would still be living a life filled with gratitude. I also like to think I am living a life filled with gratitude.
But being grateful today after my cancer diagnosis, does not mean I must keep quiet.
One thing that continues to bother me about life in Cancer Survivorship Land is that sometimes those of us who do not conform to the expected ways to do cancer/survivorship, are thought to be ungrateful.
This is so unfair and so untrue.
As I may have mentioned before, I even had a doctor say to me once when we were discussing my hideous side effects from arimidex, “Well, remember you’re alive.”
That statement seemed to imply I should stay focused on being grateful and maybe just quiet down a bit about my collateral damage issues. I never forgot that comment and how it made me feel.
Mostly it made me feel unheard. Not validated. Not understood. Not cared about.
I can be candid. I can be opinionated. I can be non-conforming. I can be ‘loud’ about whatever I want to be loud about. I can even be angry. And I most certainly can talk about and, yes, grieve for people and things cancer has stolen from me.
I can be all these things and at the same time I can also be grateful. Very grateful.
And so can you.
Because life is complex. Cancer is complex. Survivorship is complex. People are complex. Feelings are complex.
Maybe gratitude is too.
Do you ever feel as if you are perceived to be ungrateful for whatever reason?
If applicable, do you feel you are more grateful after your cancer diagnosis?
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