So I have cancer.
For a while, I thought about how to tackle this devastating news. What does this mean to me as a person? Am I going to die soon? Do I kill my hopes and dreams? Is this all I am now? Do I keep it to myself? Do I tell my family? Friends? If I do tell people, will they think I am looking for attention or that I don't want to work?
These are questions I'm still wrestling with, but as time goes by, I've become more and more open about my diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer 7 months ago. I probably had it longer than that. We tried medication to preserve my organs for potential child-bearing later on, but the medication has had minimal effect. It appears I have early grade cancer, but it won't be staged until after I have surgery. Naturally, I'm hoping the cancer hasn't spread, but I won't know until I have surgery. I won't be able to have children.
I've been devastated.
I'm not sure why some of us--I can't speak for all cancer patients, obviously--feel like keeping it a secret is best. I'm sure it's a personal decision. For me, I think it was a bit of pride and denial. Like, if I don't talk about it, it'll all just go away. That works fine for a while, right until you have to face it all over again.
I've been slow in telling people. I told my parents first, then the rest of my family. I told my closest friends, and then I told some people on social media. I told my bosses. By the end of six months, most people who knew me knew about my diagnosis. If my students know, they haven't said anything.
But I do think you reach a point where you have to own it and not be ashamed of it anymore. I still go through the cycle and grief: what did I do wrong? What could I have done better? If I had only done this or that…Which of course just throws you deeper into despair. It's counterproductive, but I would be lying if I said I've made it past that.
The reason I've decided to talk about it here on my blog instead of behind cryptic messages is that I don't want to be ashamed anymore. I don't want to be afraid that people will pity me and not love me for who I am. I have cancer, and I need to be strong to beat it.
This is why I might have been more distant. This is why I had to take a break from writing. This is why I am sad and haven't had the same joy I used to. Every day is a struggle and I shouldn't be embarrassed about that.
So this is the new normal for me. I have cancer. As a workaholic, it's hard for me to slow down, but I know that I need to take care of me right now. I can't say what will happen to me tomorrow, but I am not living in shame anymore.