How many times have you heard it said that no one understands what you’re going through unless they’ve walked in your shoes? We hear this all the time and not just in Cancer Land, of course. But in Cancer Land, I read it and hear it said often. And for some reason it always bothers me. Hence this post, which may or may not step on some toes. I don’t know. That’s not my intent, of course.
Do you feel the only people who truly understand you are the ones who have also had a cancer diagnosis? If you are metastatic, do you feel the only people who understand you are others who are metastatic as well?
If you do feel this way, that is totally fine. And I am not implying I do not feel this way myself at times. Maybe even most of the time.
However, I also feel we should be mindful of how we might come across when we say such things. Perhaps we don’t need more walls, even in Cancer Land. Maybe especially in Cancer Land.
Maybe it’s true that no one else can fully understand your path or mine. This is true with or without throwing cancer into the mix. No two lives are the same. Again, with or without cancer. No two cancer experiences are the same either. No one’s experience with anything is exactly the same as someone else’s.
Maybe it’s true that those who have not had a cancer diagnosis cannot truly grasp what we deal with after a diagnosis. Or maybe it’s not.
And does it even matter?
There are a lot of walls in Cancer Land. There are a lot of divisions. Obviously, there are all the different kinds of cancers. Remember that cancer ribbon chart that gets pulled out every October?
Then there are all the divisions within breast cancer itself based on all the types and sub-types. Each group seems to have its own corded off space where it stays separate in a sense from all the others. More walls.
Next there are the age divisions. There are support groups and organizations for young people with cancer because they have different issues. Which is true enough, but somehow this particular wall always make me feel as if my mother dying from cancer wasn’t as bad a deal because she was ‘old’. Which in a way is true, but in another way, isn’t this just one more wall?
And then there are men with breast cancer. And the hereditary cancer group. And let’s not forget the different types of advocates/survivors out there. Some of us call ourselves kick-ass warriors (not me), some of us slather up with pink, some of us now despise the color (again, not me), some of us do this and others do that. Sometimes it feels like we must “choose sides” within the breast cancer community itself.
Is this not just more walls?
Of course, we have always had walls of all sorts. Walls are part of life.
Do we put up walls to keep ourselves in or to keep others out?
Remember high school? Yeah, me too.
It’s human nature I suppose to have some walls around us. It’s a survival thing. A safety thing. A being with others like us thing. Such walls are probably good, maybe even necessary.
But if we build too many walls and/or build them too high, won’t we just end up all alone?
And there’s already enough isolation and loneliness in Cancer Land.
I”m not sure there’s much to be accomplished by telling others they can never understand me unless they’ve had a cancer diagnosis. Maybe they can. Maybe they can’t.
What does matter is empathy.
Cancer or no cancer, it boils down to being empathetic toward others does it not?
And I do believe others can empathize with just about anything another human being is going through, if they choose to try. Fully understand? Maybe not, but empathize, yes.
Regardless, cancer or no cancer, perhaps we might all be better off if we practiced empathy and understanding, instead of building more walls.
After all, we are all together in this thing called life.
Do you think only those who “have walked in your shoes” can truly understand you?
Do you believe people can empathize with anything someone else is going through, if they try?
Are there too many walls in Cancer Land?