(Photo of Mt. Kilimanjaro by Muhammad Mahdi Karim via wikimedia commons.)
Are you an overachiever, or have you ever been labeled as one?
I am not, nor have I ever been called an overachiever, and this is okay with me. I don’t need to be the person who gets the most done in the shortest amount of time, earns the top prize or whatever.
Sure, I get stuff done. Generally, on time even. But early? Hardly ever. And yes, I like to do a good job, especially when the task is something I care a lot about – like my writing, for example.
But even with my writing, I have never been, nor do I plan to be, an overachiever. If this were the case, I’d likely have my next book already published or at least have the manuscript
written started instead of having the ideas and words still rolling around in my head, which is where they still are. Mostly.
Oh well. I’ll get to it.
Marie’s post was specifically about perfectionism and how it’s a trap many people, cancer or no cancer, fall into.
There are perfectionists among us everywhere. Heck, maybe you’re one. Which is fine, btw. Some of us are wired that way. I just don’t happen to be one of them.
But this post is less about being a perfectionist and more about being an overachieving cancer patient. The two are related, but I don’t think they’re the same.
There is an expectation (yeah, I know, yet another one) that seems to be fairly prevalent in Cancer Land. The expectation that seems to suggest that after a cancer diagnosis, you better do something with your life. (Yeah, I know, like you were just sitting around twiddling your thumbs before.) Get stuff accomplished. And not just little stuff. Big stuff.
It’s sorta like the bucket list concept on steroids.
After reading Marie’s piece, I read one about Amy Robach titled, Amy Robach Marked 5 Years Following Her Breast Cancer Diagnosis by Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. I guess we were supposed to be inspired by this feat.
My reaction was to chuckle and okay, roll my eyes, too, because you see, I wrote about this VERY THING regarding exercise in my memoir:
Exercise, yes, but don’t beat yourself up trying to run marathons or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, unless of course, you want to.
Yep. I actually mentioned climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great Amy Robach climbed that mountain if that’s what she wanted to do. Kudos to her and her family, too, for making the trek with her. It was symbolic for her and a way to channel her fear. I get that. I respect that.
But her life is not like mine, and I’m guessing not like yours either, post-cancer diagnosis. Of course, it wasn’t before either.
So, why is her trek up the mountain supposed to inspire us?
Call me a wet blanket if you want, but it’s probably not something most of us aspire to or are even inspired by. I mean, I walk around my neighborhood a couple miles most days – climb a mountain, are you kidding me?
A very wise blogging friend I follow and encourage you to as well is Carolyn Thomas, author of the excellent book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease. Her article, Post-Traumatic Growth: How a Crisis Makes Life Better – or NOT, has always stuck in my mind. (Yeah, post-traumatic growth is a thing.)
These words from Thomas seem especially relevant to this post:
My concern with the Post-Traumatic Growth concept for patients is that not only are we supposed to manage a serious health crisis, but we’d better do this recuperation thing correctly so that we can emerge triumphantly at the other end with glowingly heroic results. Oh, and don’t forget: inspirational!
Who needs the additional pressure to be heroic or inspirational following a serious illness diagnosis?
Nobody. That’s who.
Again, a snippet from my book:
No one should feel pressured to accomplish profound things following a cancer diagnosis. No matter what your cancer type or stage, trying to reclaim and maintain your life and sanity will be profound enough. Trust me. It will be.
After a cancer diagnosis, you are not obligated to do big things. Don’t lie awake at night waiting for that epiphany either. If you do have one, great. But don’t lose sleep over it if you do not.
Me, I’m still asking, where is my epiphany?
I am here to remind you that following your cancer (or other serious illness) diagnosis, you don’t have to start a blog, write a book, mentor others, walk or run in races, wear pink (seriously, you do not have to this one) or whatever the heck else you think you’re supposed to do. You don’t have to do any of that stuff. No, you do not. Your job is to live your life as best you can. Focusing on that is no small task.
The pressure to do those other big things, whatever the heck they might be, can add yet another burden for the “ordinary” cancer patient who might be struggling to just get out of bed, go to work, take care of the kids, load the dishwasher, do the laundry, walk the dog or whatever the case might be.
You don’t have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro unless, of course, you want to.
Personally, I am WAY more inspired by those who manage to carry on with their lives following a cancer diagnosis, mundane parts and all.
After all, living life the best way you can IS doing something BIG.
Am I inspired by those who climb mountains post diagnosis?
Not so much.
What about you?
If you want to read more articles like this one, Click Here.
If you like this article, you might want to read, After a Cancer Diagnosis, You’re a Better Person, Right? It relates to this one.
Cancer or no cancer, are you an overachiever or have you ever been called one?
Have you ever felt pressure to do something “big” post-cancer (or other serious) diagnosis?
Are you inspired by those (like Amy Robach) who go on to accomplish what others perceive as big things?