Why I Kept My Cancer Private

In this age of social media, some people might question why I kept quiet about my cancer treatment for as long as I did. There were some very simple reasons for me — in spite of the fact that I was writing a blog about it the whole time. (If you are learning about my experience for the first time, that link is a good place to start reading after you are done here.) Essentially, however, I wanted to keep my personal life separate from what I felt might otherwise define me in the eyes of others. This was a short-term issue, I realized, because at some point the nature of living with an inoperable cancer is that it does define much of a patient’s life, regardless of how much one might prefer otherwise. So I decided to try the slow roll out of information and, to be quite honest, it has served me well (and I also think it has been good for many of the people in my life, too).

When I received my initial diagnosis, there were certain people, mainly family members, who already knew that I had some health issues that were being investigated. In addition to my immediate family, there were also my employers and maybe one or two other people who had to be in the loop, and I knew I would tell these people right away when I had all the information.

As part of my research, before I had any solid diagnosis, I had already gone through pretty much every possible scenario in my head and followed up online to gather information on what any potential diagnosis would mean. Along the way, I also discovered that

many cancer patients have shared their feelings about how their friends and family and even total strangers responded to the news of their diagnosis. I also discovered that there are far more people out there who are intent on profiting from a patient’s fear than I would have otherwise anticipated. (It’s the optimist in me, I suppose, ever the naïve and innocent child at heart, in spite of the angry cynic who shares that kid’s brain space.)

It was going to take me a small adjustment period, I was sure. I wanted to test the new ground, so to speak — also a good call on my part. By keeping the test sample small, I was able to learn a few key things over the months of November and December. For instance, I learned how to watch the response of others without getting upset myself. Surprisingly, this wasn’t always easy. But it did start me thinking about the need to change the way people discuss and understand Cancer in general, and ultimately was the impetus to begin formulating a way to put my experience and perspectives into a book.

Another key thing I learned was that many people wanted to help. This might have been with suggestions for doctors, books to read, web sites to visit, foods to ingest, crystals to meditate with, many things to think about and many things to consume. Emphasis here on the word “many.” It could be a bit overwhelming, I suspected, to take it all in at once from everyone. Even as I have let my news trickle out, I continue to have a very sincere and constant inflow of information (some still occasionally new). Because my friends are generally compassionate and thoughtful people, I expect this trend to continue for a very long time (and frankly I will be disappointed if it doesn’t, even if I don’t agree with all of it). The desire to help is a good thing, it reminds me I am cared for and not in this alone. I appreciate it — all of it. But I also knew it would be best to temper the initial onslaught, and I am glad I did. This way, it was easier to appreciate, to digest, to assimilate and actually respond to.

But now, the cat is ostensibly out of the bag. Friends are stumbling upon this information which I have made so readily public through my blog, something I felt was inevitably going to happen. Not to mention that my Facebook “author page” has begun gaining some traction. So it only seems appropriate that I broach the subject with my broader personal social circle.

After all, it isn’t meant to be a secret. I have enjoyed the months of virtual conversations that had nothing to do with Cancer or “my condition” — which, I have ironically found I actually enjoy talking about anyway — but I have also found it is easy to navigate a multitude of subjects without letting Cancer define me even as it is an intrinsic part of my current life. Add to that the fact that I am clearly doing well, not living in a state of doom and gloom, and there is little worry about unduly freaking out people I care for (at least if they managed to read this far).

Although I do like freaking people out… Maybe I should have ridden that tide. But I made my choice, and like most of past history, I am going to embrace it and move on. The road ahead will have fresh bumps to traverse, after all, some of which will undoubtedly be of my own making, others simply symptoms of chance. The thing all bumps in the road have in common, though, is that one way or another they must be passed for the journey to continue moving forward. And forward is where I am headed.

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