One of the most deeply moving moments in my journey was when I realized I wasn’t alone. There were millions of other people out there experiencing the same internal conflict too. However that moment didn’t come until four years later. The moments leading up to that point were quite different.
Each day I woke up, shrouding myself in a coat of arms, letting the emotion fester on the inside. I had to be strong for my friends. I couldn’t handle talking about what I was going through because I would see the pain and tears streak their face. If they were hurt, I would lose it. So when asked how I was doing, I’d crack a joke, and say, “I’m fine, everything will be okay.”
Lies. These are the little lies we tell ourselves to make everything feel better. You don’t know if you’re going to be okay. I felt this cancer growing in me was my burden to bear. So I kept the emotion in, keeping the tears hidden even from my family. You so badly want to shelter everyone you love from the pain you feel because you don’t want them to hurt. You don’t want them to feel the same way you feel about yourself. So you constantly make sure they’re okay, and reassure them everything will be fine.
I didn’t realize this was how I tried to protect my loved ones until I had an epiphany watching a dance competition portraying a woman’s battle with cancer. Not only did the dance move me, but the critique (fast forward to minute 6:25) so accurately captured the emotion I felt when talking to my friends, “How many millions and millions of people if they haven not experienced cancer firsthand have known someone to either fight it or not fight it. And the journey that you go on with them, because everyday they want to believe they’re going to beat it. And that’s the hardest thing and they always want you to be okay. It’s always about you being okay as they try to keep that focus that ‘I’m going to beat this, I’m going to beat this.“
And so I told my friends, “I’ll be okay. Please don’t worry about me.”