When I started blogging, I knew from the get-go I wanted to write about breast cancer and loss. When my mother died from metastatic breast cancer, my life changed forever. Less than two years later when I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself, obviously things changed pretty darn dramatically again.
I knew it wouldn’t be possible for me to write a blog about one of these things without also writing about the other. For many reasons the two were, and are, intricately intertwined.
This would have been the case had my mother died from something other than breast cancer. The loss of your mother is life-altering for most, no matter what the cause of death might be.
Admittedly, one of my concerns when I started Nancy’s Point was that these two topics were pretty darn heavy. I mean come on, breast cancer and loss…
Would anyone want to read about this stuff?
I even asked Dear Daughter if my blog header “a blog about breast cancer and loss” sounded too depressing.
She’s always honest and said, “Umm, yeah, a little bit.”
Still, I didn’t want to change it, and so I didn’t.
This was, and is, because while the topics might be heavy, talking and sharing about them is not. In fact, I find doing so to be healing and yes, even uplifting. It hopefully helps others as well.
Not talking about the serious stuff, now that is depressing.
I didn’t fully realize it in the beginning, but the parallels between breast cancer and grief/loss are pretty stunning at times.
Breast cancer and loss, they do go hand and in hand. As I wrote about in a post a while back, Breast Cancer Is a String of Losses. It is just that – a string of losses.
Now I’m certainly not saying a cancer diagnosis is the same as the death of a dear loved one. No, I’m not saying that at all. But there are parallels in these two life-changing transformations.
For example, both cause pain. Both create emotional scars. Both necessitate considerable grieving. Both cause turmoil and upheaval on many different levels. Both require healing. Both require considerable adapting and adjusting. Both require time to navigate them.
Above all, both experiences become a huge part of who you are.
One thing that really strikes me is how there is a societal expectation for how to do cancer and how to do grief and loss as well.
After the death of a loved one and after a cancer diagnosis, generally speaking, you’re expected to get on with things pretty quickly.
Oh sure, you’re given a certain time allotment to get through the messy parts, but after a certain amount of time passes, you’re supposed to be done. Eventually, most people don’t talk about your loved one. Likewise, eventually most people don’t talk about your cancer. This isn’t necessarily good or bad; it just is.
I would go even further and say there’s also a fair amount of judging that goes on in both realms.
It’s almost as if the faster you put your grief behind you, the better job you’ve supposedly done handling things. You get the gold star in grief management or something like that. Ridiculous really.
The same might be said about breast cancer. There is an unspoken message out there that says find it early, cut it out, get through treatment, pick up your pink survivor badge and be done with it. Just do things “right” and all will be fine.
(Obviously, most of us realize it’s never that simple).
Again, you’re sort of judged by how well and how fast you meet all the “doing cancer right” requirements.
A “good breast cancer survivor” moves on quickly, shelves the experience and never looks back – at least not very often. And wait, there’s more. She’s also sorta expected to emerge as a new and improved version of her former self. Again, ridiculous.
I find these parallels very interesting.
Hurry up and grieve. Get over it quickly. Be done. Move on.
Hurry up with cancer. Get over it quickly. Be done. Move on.
Is there anything wrong with this kind of expectation?
Maybe. Maybe not.
If it works for you, fine.
But what if it doesn’t?
Grief has no time table. There is no one-size-fits-all way to do grief.
The same can be said about cancer.
Ultimately, there’s only one way to “ride the waves” of whatever happens in your life – your way.
At least this is how it should be.
Have you ever felt hurried to get through grief or cancer and just put it all behind you?
Have you ever felt as you were “doing” grief or cancer wrong?