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A Small Revelation

Recently I was reading a post by one of my favorite bloggers, the Cancer Curmudgeon, and I had one of those light-bulb moments. Let me just stress, this was NOT an epiphany. No, I have not had one of those, nor do I expect to. It was more a realization that I need to remember to follow a certain piece of my own advice.

Quite often I’m suggesting, do cancer your way. Do survivorship your way too. You know, that sort of thing.

I think I finally realized, I get to do cancer survivorship my way too. 

(As I mentioned before, I can sometimes be a slow learner).

A while back I had an exchange with an individual on Facebook (a family member no less) about one of my biggest cancer pet peeves, that just stay positive mantra. This particular person has experienced cancer firsthand, not once but twice. This person left a comment on one of my posts in which I had expressed my resistance to the over-used, just stay positive messaging, suggesting that it’s not all the helpful for some of us. This person didn’t understand where I was coming from (and likely never will), told me so and then proceeded to unlike my page – all totally fine. Still, my feelings were hurt.

Shortly after that, I read the above mentioned post by my friend the Cancer Curmudgeon and wallah – light bulb moment!

Here’s the part that really resonated:

Finding and sharing truths about the shittiness of cancer has been satisfying. Confronting facts comforts me. Yet so many people perceive it as “being negative”. My message to them is this: “Stop it right now. You may think you are spreading your sunshine, but you are really raining on my grumpy parade. I was having a good time and you wagging your finger at me and my attitude is what is REALLY getting me down.”

Upon reading that, I realized some of us are not in the just stay positive camp and never will be perhaps because our brains are wired differently. We don’t WANT to be in that camp. We choose to opt out of it. We will always see some things (like cancer for instance) from a differently skewed angle which is often a less-accepted-by-society sort of angle. Either camp is appropriate and we should all be allowed to pick and choose which one we feel most comfortable residing in and/or moving in and out of. After all, cancer or no cancer, what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another.

The thing I can never quite grasp is why so many in the just stay positive camp find people like me to be negative. I do not see myself as a negative person. At all. I will admit that too much positivity drives me a little nuts. We’ve all interacted with the over-the-top perky type, right? And from a patient’s perspective, well this patient anyway, staff perkiness in a hospital is way over-rated…But again, this does not mean I am a negative person. As I have said many time before, I am a realist.

Like the cancer curmudgeon, I often share about the shitty side of cancer and frankly, have great difficulty seeing, much less sharing, anything that is not shitty about cancer. And like the cancer curmudgeon, this helps make me feel better. Sharing the shitty stuff IS my “positive”, well part of it anyway.

Why is this such a hard concept for some to understand and/or accept?

I try to be quite clear when I write stuff here on the blog, or anywhere, that my opinions are just that, mine. I welcome all viewpoints. I really do. I love good discussions about differing points of view, no matter what the topic might be. I am not necessarily trying to change how others think or feel; I am merely expressing myself about my personal cancer shitstorm and its aftermath. I always hope that by doing so, I am encouraging others to more freely share about theirs too.

If I can accept that the just stay positive mantra works for some, okay many, why does it so often feel as if my way of doing things isn’t quite up to par?

Why does the accepted (for the most part) societal narrative still seem to be that smiling your way through cancer (and survivorship) is the best way to handle things?

Cancer or no cancer, we are all individuals. (Thank goodness).

Don't rain on my parade

Don’t rain on my parade, both images in this post used under Creative Commons license

Like the Cancer Curmudgeon said, don’t rain on my parade.

Amen to that. And there’s that other expression…

I won’t rain on your parade if you don’t rain on mine.

Give yourself permission to be real, to be you, to “do” any part of cancer your way.

I’ll try to remember to do the same.

Which “camp” do you feel most comfortable in?

Do you ever feel your way of coping with cancer (and survivorship) isn’t accepted by others?

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Wednesday 8th of June 2016

Oh yes, I used to be a positive thinker. I went into chemo thinking I could just nice my way through it. After a couple rounds of chemo I realized all the good thinking in the world could not prevent the worst from happening. I recently wrote a poem/song/rap about it basically saying this all sucks but days when I wake up and feel ok, I am glad to be here: I've learned it's ok to be pissed at being sick all the time and I don't need to make sure other people are happy any more. What an exhausting waste of time that was! ...One of the many reasons I so appreciate stumbling on your blog and attitude. Nice to find out there's nothing wrong with feeling shitty about feeling shitty. Thanks.


Wednesday 8th of June 2016

Myra, There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling shitty about feeling shitty. And good for you no longer worrying about making sure others are happy all the time. This doesn't mean we should wallow and be grumpy all the time and that we don't care about the happiness of others. No. It just means we can be honest about our true feelings. Thanks for sharing your poem/song.

Beth Gainer

Thursday 19th of May 2016

Hi Nancy,

Great post! Like Kathi said, I think the "be positive" mantras are reactions from people in denial. It's easier to say these words and thus avoid the pain associated with any kind of cancer. I never smiled my way through my cancer shitstorm either. I never felt lucky or positive. As a person, I think I'm mostly positive, and having such an outlook on life is a good thing, I think. But feeling positive because one has cancer/has had cancer is another thing entirely.

Everyone does have the right to do survivorship their way. There's no right way, really, but we all are entitled to our reality.


Friday 20th of May 2016

Beth, You and I are of like minds. :)


Saturday 14th of May 2016

Amen! I've always felt that you can't address problems unless you identify them. Apparently, that strikes some people as negative. Forcing yourself not to see them seems like denial to me, which is not helpful. *shrug* Oy.


Monday 16th of May 2016

Kathi, Sharing reality is not being negative, and you're so right, no problem can be addressed without identifying it. I always wonder why there's so much denial of reality regarding cancer...Don't get that. Thank you for reading and commenting. xo


Friday 13th of May 2016

Being told to be positive to me is the same as saying "I don't want to hear your grief, pain, fear etc." I don't think I'm in either the positive or negative camp, but in the "living my life and trying not to be miserable about things I can't change" camp. Single most helpful thing to me has been "The Happiness Slap" by Russ Harris. It's mindfulness 101.


Monday 16th of May 2016

Liz, Love your first sentence. Is that a book you mentioned there? Sounds interesting! Thank you for sharing.


Friday 13th of May 2016

Nancy, I've had similar experiences with other patients telling me to be positive when I start to vent about my frustrations. I realize that there is a difference on how I feel when a patient suggests I stay positive vs. when a non-cancer person makes the suggestion. Basically, my point is the same as yours. I don't understand why the positive attitude is the only one allowed in our society. But also, who said I am not positive? Being a realist doesn't mean being negative. And like Wendi said in her article, a lot has to do with the way I am wired, the way I am inside. I am just being me. I respect the way other patients handle their cancer and survivorship. I expect the same treatment.

I bet many patients hide their true feelings because of the fear of being judged or losing support. I am at peace with my decision of staying true to myself. And thank you for not raining on my grumpy parade, Nancy! xo


Monday 16th of May 2016

Rebecca, Always nice to know you and I are on the same page. I also fear that many patients hide their true feeling because of fear about being judged, losing support, or whatever reasons. This is one motivator for me to keeping writing about this stuff. I want others to realize (earlier on than I did) that there is no right way to do cancer and you don't have to smile your way through it. Staying true to oneself is always best, cancer or no cancer. Thank you for reading and sharing your insights.

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