Recently David Bowie died of cancer. I’m not going to make this about David Bowie, because honestly, he was not a big part of my life. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but his death has not affected me at all, except of course it is always sad to hear someone has died. However a lot of people seem to be surprised he died of cancer, because evidently he did not share this news with the public. This has led to some talk about cancer diagnosis and privacy in the cancer community (yes there is one of those).
I’m sure many of us remember the days when “cancer” was whisper, or called the “c-word”. That is certainly not the case anymore. But still, there are many people that choose not to share their diagnoses. I know people that have done cold capping or got wigs made from their very own hair just so that nobody would know they had cancer. There are various reasons for this I guess. Maybe some people are simply private, maybe something a little worried about job security, maybe some people just don’t like people talking about them or don’t like to seem vulnerable. I completely support anybody who decides not to share any personal information with anybody, personal is personal, and people can do what they wish.
I, however, am different. Obviously, I have chosen to share my diagnosis and treatment with people, in a very public way. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this is, and have some answers
1. Attention: I’m sure there’s some people that would say I’m attention seeking, and I guess I am a little bit. I like people talking to me, I like people talking about me, I like people reading my blog. I should probably be ashamed of that, but I won’t waste my energy. It’s probably not my fault anyway, it’s probably a psychological condition that occurred because I grew up as the underachieving twin (that’s not a put down, it just is)! Either way though, some of the most famous and admired people on earth like attention, that’s why they’re famous in the first place! So do I. I certainly wouldn’t say that I shared my diagnosis for attention (I never thought in my head “I should tell people I have cancer because then they will pay attention to me”) but I’m not gonna lie: I appreciate having more blog readers, and I appreciate hearing from people but I rarely heard from before. This is certainly not the reason I chose to be so open about my situation, but it’s probably a contributing factor in my decision to continue to be so open.
2. #nofilter: I’m not really a very private person. I’m OK keeping other people secrets, and I am constantly working at that because it’s part of being a good person and a good friend, but I put no effort towards keeping my own secrets, and I’ve stopped even trying to work on it. A few years ago I was considering getting a piercing in a…ahem…rather intimate spot. I chose not to do it and a big reason is because if I did, I know I would be tempted to show everybody! Life goals of mine are to avoid both a criminal record and divorce (nothing wrong with divorce, but my marriage is happy and I am to keep it that way) so I decided it would be best to just not get the piercing. Anyway, I’m clearly not a very private person, so I saw no reason to keep this private. Some people will be surprised to know that I found the lump about a month before I told most people about it, I kept it quiet for a little while, but that was very hard for me, and even then I probably told more people than most would. Shortly after my diagnosis, I told a taxi driver. I still don’t know why. It was weird and random.
3. Awareness. This reason is the most admirable reason, but it’s probably also the biggest reason. I know that everybody knows about cancer and breast cancer, but I also know that a lot of people know about the risks. At my age, I don’t have many of them. My mother, grandmothers, aunts and cousins have not had breast breast or ovarian cancer. I’m an Ashkanazi Jew but I’ve already tested negative for the gene mutation. I have practiced several lifestyle choices that supposedly contribute to a lower risk: having children, breast-feeding those children, limiting my meat consumption, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight. I’m pretty sure that if most people that know me wrote a list of the 10 women they thought would be most likely to get breast cancer in their 40s, they would not have put me on that list. I certainly didn’t put myself on my list! I don’t want people to be afraid, one out of eight women get breast cancer, seven out of eight don’t, so that’s still an awful lot but don’t! But I do want people to be aware that that can happen it can happen to anyone, it can happen at any time. If I had not been somewhat aware of that and tested myself, who knows when it would’ve been found! I would not have had a mammogram for years. My doctor checked me once a year, but who knows if she would’ve found it? This not putting down her by the way, at my first appointment with the breast surgeon she could not find it without my help! She feels breasts for a living! So it is important for him to me that people be aware that anybody, even somebody youngest and healthy like me, can get cancer. Not just breast cancer, any kind of cancer (and really, any kind of serious illness-no matter what, early detection and treatment is always key). It’s important to be aware, check yourself when you can, and talk to your doctors about the ways they can check you too. Go for your Pap smears, don’t let mammogram requisitions sitting your handbag, get colonoscopies when required, have weird lumps bumps and marks checked out, don’t ignore any symptoms that don’t go away, and go for yearly physicals even when you think you’re perfectly healthy. I don’t want to see anybody I know or love, or anybody at all go through what I’m going through. But I would rather see somebody go through it like I am, when it is still very treatable, than later!! You can save your own life, and be your own hero!!!
4. Education. I like teaching people things, if there is something I’m particularly good at or know a lot about, I like helping people in that area. It’s why I became a car seat technician, it’s why I hope to become a yoga teacher, it’s why am currently doing a contract at work assisting my colleagues and adjusting to our new computer system. When I first realized I might have breast cancer, I did a lot of googling, a lot of what I came across those blogs. Some of them were so helpful, and made this whole thing a little bit less scary. I aim to do that with this blog (in addition to sharing awesome vegan recipes). I know that some people must get to it from googling, and I figure that my experience and blogging about it may have something to make someone newly diagnosed, or maybe even scared they’re going to be newly diagnosed, feel just a little bit better.