The following conversation has taken place about me: “Did you hear about Stacy Hurt? You know, the one with the special needs child. She has Stage IV colorectal cancer?” (Weepy, defeated face) “Oh my gosh, that’s awful! When did that happen? She was so athletic and healthy! How is she doing?” (Scrunched up, horrified face). “She’s doing pretty well, I guess.” (Insert uncomfortable, uneasy face). And then the follow up questions: “How does she look? Did she lose her hair? Did she lose a lot of weight?” And then the subsequent comments: “That’s just awful. That’s terrible. That sucks. Poor Stacy.” (Both people walk away).
It’s ok. I know it happens. Before I was the one that people were talking about, I spoke this way about people I knew with cancer. You instantly become the hottest gossip in town; the latest person with cancer. And Stage IV…wow…that’s really hot gossip. “Will she pull through? Can she do it? I don’t know! Stay tuned! To be continued!” It’s not meant in a malicious way. It’s just human nature. Why do Us Magazine and People Magazine sell by the truckloads? Because people are curious about people. Their ups, but let’s face it, especially their downs. Why is that? No one wants to see anyone down. Is it because we’re all down and misery loves company? Or do people want to put their troubles into perspective? “Man, my life sucks, but it could be worse. Look at Stacy.” Or do they just thrive on drama?
My whole cancer battle has been chronicled in social media. I’ve noticed that the posts that get the most hits are the ones with pictures of me going to chemo. Why? Because people just want to see how I look. It’s ok…I get it. It used to bother me, but now I just realize that that’s how it goes with cancer. People are scared of cancer and they compartmentalize in into buckets they understand: How does she feel? How does she look? How is she doing? And then they run from it…far, far away.
DO NOT BE SCARED OF CANCER! Cancer should be scared of us! WE are the ones who will defeat it! WE have the tools, the science, the technology, and the faith! Fear takes over when we feel powerless, and in today’s world, we are far from powerless against cancer! Furthermore, some of us who are warriors (not all of us) want to talk about cancer. We WANT you to go deeper than just the surface stuff, into the real everyday stuff. We want you to ask us how we are REALLY feeling. And through a discussion, we can allay your fears. We’re still the same us! Let’s change that whole dialogue above and have a teaching moment here – and please spread the word! I’m not going to use me, because I have an incredible support system and I am enormously blessed with resources. So I am going to use my fictitious friend, “Sally” here to illustrate.
“Did you hear about Sally? She has Stage (insert) (insert) cancer.” (Strong, angry, ticked off face). “Oh my gosh, that’s awful! (Thinking, processing face) So I assume you know Sally personally or have a way to contact her. What would be the best way I could help her? Does she need a meal? May I visit her? May I send her a card?” (Empowered face). (Both people brainstorm together about what they can do to help Sally). Did you see worry or doubt or dismay in this dialogue? No. Because you are taking control of the situation. (Oh by the way, you can also insert all of the normal, human nature questions here too – you’re allowed to now).
See the difference? People are going to talk about you…that’s a given. And you can talk about my cancer situation all you want, as long as you DO SOMETHING! You do not have license to gossip about Sally, unless you help Sally; then and only then are you are a part of the solution, not the problem. As long as you are talking about something bad, you are giving it space and energy to grow and pervade. But the minute that you turn the tables on it, face it down, and steal its momentum, you are stopping the negativity in its tracks and making it better. And you do that at the very ground level.
Cancer is no different. Everyone talks about, “Why can’t they find a cure for cancer??” That cure begins with YOU! Instead of just talking about a person with cancer, HELP a person with cancer, and immediately you are part of their recovery. Again, everyone walks around saying, “Wow, I hope Sally can beat cancer”, but what did you do for Sally, other than just talk about her? Talking about her isn’t going to do her any good. Reaching out to Sally in some way (if/when she is accepting) will do her a WORLD of good and CRUSH those nasty cancer cells! Reaching out will also break down the fear, on both sides – your fear of cancer, and Sally’s fear that you have abandoned her because she is now battling this awful enemy.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Talk is cheap.” But guess what…so are greeting cards these days! As a matter of fact, if you price out your time checking all of that social media propaganda, it would’ve been cheaper to buy Sally a card, send her a text, or drive through and grab her a Starbucks. (ok, maybe not the Starbucks itself…) Remember, the END of cancer BEGINS with fearlessly taking action against it with someone you care about today.