I want to start this blog by stating that as a breast cancer survivor I am extremely grateful that I am alive and well. It has been 8 years since I was diagnosed with the disease.
Now, despite my gratefulness, I have down days. Nothing unusual there. I am human, and I ride the cycle of emotions of daily living which include absolute highs and lows and in-between too. Yet, as I survivor, I feel that I am not allowed to have down days. This feeling comes from the wider community. I constantly hear comments such as “You are lucky to be alive”. “You should be grateful”. “Why are you feeling down, you survived cancer” and many other similar comments. I also read many articles, social media posts, blogs and the like about being grateful and positive.
I know these comments and the various written articles, posts, blogs come from a good space. A space of support. Yet, is it really support? How can it be support when there is an expectation of constant positivity and gratefulness? It feels more like peer pressure, an absolute do, no negotiation, to fit in and be accepted.
One of the challenges I experience is that there seems to be a perception that because one has survived cancer one ‘should’ be 100% grateful and happy 100% of the time!! No ‘down days’ allowed once you become a survivor of cancer. I am grateful that I am alive and well but I find it overwhelming with the broader community expectations that I need to 100% positive and grateful all the time. I don’t feel it is realistic. I am human and as a living human being, I have emotions and feelings. These emotions and feelings will vary on a daily basis depending on what is happening in my world. So even when I am feeling down, trust me, I still know that I am lucky to have survived an aggressive breast cancer. Trust me I am still grateful. And trust me that I need to ride this emotion and have my down day.
I am sure that this feeling not only affects me but also many other survivors. The pressure to be constantly grateful, positive, fit, healthy, happy…the list is endless….is difficult and unrealistic to any person, so why do we as cancer survivors have this level of expectation placed on us? An overwhelming pressure on survivors to be constantly happy and grateful can actually have the opposite affect and lead to anxiety or depression….because we are not fitting the ideal picture of a cancer survivor.
If you truly want to support us, just be there and ask how you can help. Please don’t say “You are lucky to be alive”. “You should be grateful”. “Why are you feeling down, you survived cancer” and other similar comments. Listen to us, cry with us and rejoice with us. Also, please, please, please understand that at the end of the day we are still human and we will feel the range of human emotions just like you do. Please know that even when we have our down days, we are still grateful and please allow us to have our down days and know that this is ok.
Please feel free to send me an email with your thoughts and feedback and don’t forget to hug the ones you love.
Love and health