Recently Dear Hubby and I met with another specialist (I don’t keep track of the number of docs anymore) to consult about an upcoming medical procedure I will soon be having (no worries, minor surgery). Is this yet another procedure to add to my personal domino effect lineup? There’s no proof, but probably.
But this post isn’t about any procedure or any particular domino…
No, this post is about gratitude and silence. So, first I’d like to ask you the following question:
Have you ever felt as if you’re supposed to keep quiet and just be grateful for being alive?
After the above mentioned consult, Dear Hubby and I left and went about our business as usual. Then one evening a few weeks later, Dear Hubby brought to my attention something that latest specialist had said that he’d since been thinking about. That something said went along the lines of: Yes, cancer treatment is harsh. Yes, the long term side effects are tough too, as are the side effects of AIs, but you’re alive.
The discussion between Dear Hubby and me came about because of a certain message inside a Chinese fortune cookie that said:
Very true, but…
I found it interesting that Dear Hubby had been silently pondering over that doctor’s recent remarks.
I had not said anything because sometimes I fear I am too touchy about such matters. I’m sort of a word freak, I suppose.
Anyway, Dear Hubby went on to say that HE felt that comment was patronizing and even condescending. It seemed to suggest to him that I/we should just keep quiet about my lingering side effects from past and present treatment and instead focus on being grateful that I’m still here.
I had had the same thought, but had let it go.
I am grateful to be here. I am very grateful to be alive and kicking after my cancer diagnosis. I am grateful there were/are treatments that worked and still work to keep me NED. I truly am. I know many others are not so fortunate.
This is another fine line of survivorship to walk – this whole gratitude and silence thing.
Sometimes, I don’t feel I have the right to complain about side effects and collateral damage from my initial cancer treatment and ongoing endocrine therapy as well. I realize my friends living with metastatic disease would love to be in my shoes. They would love to be NED. I realize they put up with horrendous side effects day in and day out and willingly do so hoping to add months and years to their lives. They hope and pray more treatment options will be available to them when their present one stops working. Side effects mean something entirely different to them.
It’s true, in comparison my issues are minor.
What do I have to complain about?
On the other hand, I also know these same amazing individuals living with mets are some of the most understanding and compassionate people I know. Most would never think of discouraging me from speaking out about my less dire issues, or anything else for that matter. In fact, these very people are often the most supportive of all. They get it like no one else gets it.
My friends with mets inspire me to speak up about my issues. They inspire me to speak up about a lot of things.
So yes, I did feel the unspoken message in that doctor’s words was: Maybe you shouldn’t complain about your lingering side effects. Maybe you should just suck it up and be grateful that you’re alive.
And this post is not meant to be a criticism of that doctor. Okay, maybe it is a little bit.
I’m trying to make another point about tiptoeing through survivorship.
And that point is that another expectation out there is that we survivors should perhaps keep quiet more often. We shouldn’t complain, or even talk too much about certain things.
We should suck it up more and just be grateful.
The danger in that perhaps is that some will suffer in silence. Or that too many will be satisfied with the status quo.
If we don’t speak up about what we are dealing with regarding treatment side effects (or whatever it is), who will know? Who will listen? Who will care?
And how will things ever improve for those who come after us?
Of course, I’m grateful to be alive, but…
This does not mean I must be quiet.
Nor must you.
I love the quote below from Audre Lorde, author of The Cancer Journals. Somehow her words seem fitting, not just today and not just for this post, but for any day and any post:
Your silence will not protect you.
Don’t you agree?