Keeping it real. Support you can use. If you’ve subscribed to my email list, you already know these two phrases pretty much sum up what I try to do here on the blog. They’re sort of like my mission statements. But what do they really mean, and am I actually delivering on either one?
What does keeping it real mean?
I decided long ago I would not sugarcoat my breast cancer experience. I blame the pink ribbon, rah-rah, I’m a better person post diagnosis for a lot of the misunderstanding that is out there regarding breast cancer reality. With all the pretty-in-pink and other pink ribbon culture nonsense that’s gone on for years, what are people supposed to think?
Far too many still presume breast cancer to be a bump in the road.
You get diagnosed. You go through a year or so of treatment. And then voila, you return to your old life (if only). And you not only return, you’re expected to return as a better version of your former self, a revamped you. You’ve rearranged your priorities. You’ve gleaned life lessons that could only be learned from cancer (just another way to frame it as a gift, IMO). You’ve learned to stop to smell the roses. You’ve seen the light, though what light, I’m not exactly sure. You’ve been transformed.
Miraculously, you’ve become a new and improved you. And if not, why not – in other words, what’s wrong with you?
As you likely know by now, I do not believe in this way of looking at the breast cancer experience. It’s a horrible disease. Treatments are rough. The side effects can be life-long. The risk of recurrence remains. For those with metastatic disease, treatment never ends. (So stop asking them when they’ll be “done”). People continue to die from it, for crying out loud. Loved ones do not go unscathed either. (Dear Hubby certainly could and would attest to this).
As far as I’m concerned cancer sucks. Period.
Having said all this, keeping it real also means some people feel I’m too negative. Some prefer a more varnished approach. For example, just last week, when someone unsubscribed to my newsletter, the reason she offered (and I appreciated her offering a reason, btw) was, no substance and too negative a tone for me. As one who strives to write about a wide variety of breast cancer related issues and topics, I had to wonder about the lack of substance part. I gathered from the other half of her comment, she meant I should be more uplifting. And do you remember the book club review of my memoir?
Some readers prefer not to read “so much” about metastatic disease, death and dying. I understand that, to a point. But I won’t be silent either. That would be like abandoning reality, like abandoning my mother and all the others who face or have faced metastatic disease. Not gonna happen.
I fully realize this blog and my memoir are not for everyone. Nor should they be. There are a lot of breast cancer blogs out there and loads of books about it too. Everyone has different wants, needs, concerns and preferences. That old saying, you can’t please everyone, is certainly true here, too.
I admit, sometimes it is tricky to find that balance. Keeping it real. Support you can use. I want to deliver on both. Can you have one without the other? I think not.
Ultimately, I believe keeping it real IS the best way to be supportive.
I believe this to be true when talking about grief as well as cancer.
I’ve been writing about grief since this blog’s beginning, too. Grief and cancer go hand in hand, and the parallels are quite striking at times. And just as with cancer, many people prefer not to think, talk or read about the reality of grief either and if they do, generally they prefer not to do so for very long. Again, there’s that perception that the sooner you “deal with it” and put it behind you, the better you are at handling things.
Cancer is messy. Grief is messy too. Figuratively and literally. Messy is hard. Messy is sometimes negative. Messy is human. Messy is real.
So, I will continue to keep it real. Among other things, I will continue to share about my cancer and grief experiences and the life-long impact of both, messy parts and all.
Keeping it real. Support you can use.
I’ll keep trying to deliver on both.
Count on it, the trying part anyway.
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What sort of support do you look for online and/or here on this blog?
Do you share openly about the messy parts of cancer, grief and other things, or not so much?
Has anyone told you (or implied) that you’re too negative, regarding your cancer experience or any other challenges, for that matter?