After cancer treatment is over, you can decide what kind of Cancer Survivor you wish to be. At this point, I believe a conscious decision is made. For years, it has been a hobby of mine to talk with strangers. Now I talk with Cancer Survivors because that is who hangs around the three cancer centers I frequent! I’ve noticed one thing from my talks with hundreds of Cancer Survivors: Cancer Survivors usually fit into one of the following three categories, at least in my mind. As Cancer Survivors, we all move in and out of these categories, but we tend to frequent one more than the others.
1) Normal Nancy or Not Me Norm – These Survivors briefly admit they had cancer, say it doesn’t define them, try to forget everything that happened during treatment. If I ask them a question, often I get this answer: “I don’t remember.” Usually they fill their lives with so much BUSY trying to fit it all in because death may come quicker than you think. Often, they do not want others to know they ever had cancer. It is not unusual for them to have moved to a different city or get a new job where no one thinks of them as Cancer Guy or Cancer Girl. They try to fly under the cancer radar.
2) Inspirational Inez or Transformation Ted – You sit down next to this person and you are immediately transported to a higher level of thinking. You are amazed at the depths of their soul, the transformative nature of their conversation, and go away amazed and inspired by their story. They have accepted their plight and inspire everyone they encounter. Their story is not all about them. They have an uncanny ability to help you see good. Often these are the people who were given 3 months to live and have now survived 20 years. It feels providential that you encountered them as they give you just the pep talk you need when you need it. Sometimes it feels as if you have met an angel, and you wonder if you have because once you encounter them, you do not forget them.
3) Cold Cathy and Frigid Fred – These conversations are usually very draining if you are even able to have a conversation with this person. These people are often very distant, don’t want to talk about you, and if you get them to talk it is always, “Why did this happen to me?”, “I’ve been a good person” “I’ve done the right things”, and “I know I am Going to Die Soon so I might as well quit living.
Certainly, I know I have been all of these people. But at first glance, I would certainly prefer to be Inspirational Inez. Because of my encounters, I am very careful what I say to cancer patients going through active treatment. I remember the words of other Cancer Survivors who helped me through – courage, strength, determination, adapt, adjust, keep going, never give up, you can and will do it, and there is life after cancer. Never have I forgotten the words or the people who spoke those words to me. Survivors who had been there but were willing to reach out to give the great gifts of encouragement and hope.
This applies to everyone we meet, not just cancer patients, doesn’t it? And often we take for granted those we live with, care for, and family and friends. This Christmas and New Year, please consider giving the greatest gifts to others – encouragement and hope. You can never go wrong with that gift!
Speaking of gifts — be sure to check out my online store at www.hellocourage.com