Cancer good news stories cannot take away from an important truth. Here are 7 important points to remember.
When it comes to health and illness (whether physical or mental) some good news stories and topics can divide opinions, a lot more than some may expect. And it is no different (or especially so) for cancer good news stories.
I was reminded of that when reading some responses to the news that Sarah Thomas, who had previously been treated for breast cancer, swam the English Channel – 4 times.
Whether you have cancer or not; whether you have another life-changing illness, or not. Chances are, you too want good news stories. And not just about our illnesses, but about our world, society or neighbourhood.
We all crave for something that helps make everything else worthwhile or more bearable or that which gives us hope.
Let me say in no uncertain terms: I applaud Sarah and respect her achievement. I could not do it, not a fraction of it, before my cancer diagnosis, after, or now with the illness. And I would not want to do it either, then or now.
And let me say further in no uncertain terms: Everyone affected by cancer may choose on their own very personal way of finding meaning, carrying on and turning the experience into something (or not).
What I do, may not be what you choose to do. And what you do, may not be what I can do. There is no competition. We all have equal worth.
However, if you report or hear cancer good news stories please remember:
1. Cancer and cancer treatment experiences are complex, unpredictable and individual. If one person does ‘well’, it does not mean others can do so, too.
Generalisation can lead to unrealistic expectations and unintentional shaming.
2. Those who do not engage in sports, continue to have weight issues, do not write books or blogs, do not get involved in advocacy or anything else – none are necessarily less committed to their health, community, family or themselves. And even if they are, it is not for others to judge or make assumptions.
3. Treatment side effects and psychological difficulties can limit one’s abilities (eg long-lasting effects of cancer fatigue, chemo brain, weight gain, PTSD to mention some of the more common experiences). And let’s not forget, we all have choices.
4. Coping with cancer cannot be simplified to “where there is a will, there is a way”.
5. People affected by cancer will cope and manage in their own way, whether noticeable to others, or not. This is something we need to encourage.
6. The reporting of positive cancer stories can cause emotional pain, anger, fear and a sense of failure among those who have lost (or never had) the abilities others are celebrated for. This can lead to a greater sense of isolation and unrealistic expectations in society (and among people affected by cancer) about what is realistically possible, or not.
7. We all are in need of “good cancer stories” because accepting the reality of uncertainty and loss can be hard to bear. We all need hope, but realistic hope.
Talking about how to learn to bear the unbearable must not be excluded from the discussion.
Bottom line – bbeing affected by cancer (incl relatives), whoever you are, whatever your cancer, wherever you are at with the illness, it is an endurance challenge! And I for one salute every single one of you, whatever you do or don’t do.
And I wish you well with it all!
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“There is no competition. We all have equal worth.”
I absolutely agree with you there, Karin. I have to say that I cringe every time I visit the hospital for treatment and see posters asking whether you want to participate in this or that activity – usually “extreme sports” – the sorts of things I wouldn’t have been able to / chosen to be involved in, even before cancer. Most of these activities are done in order to raise funds for cancer charities – which I applaud. However, I feel there is too much emphasis on physical activities, and I wish there were more opportunities for a wider variety of activities that people can get involved in, depending on what they enjoy doing.
Thanks Julia. I fully agree with you. It reminds me of seeing such posters on my recent hospital visit. I did not like extreme sports before cancer and not now either. It reflects a lack of understanding and research into the key audience (“us”) they try to appeal to. Very best for you. Karin