Mark Hoppus Reminds Us It's OK to Feel OK When You're Seriously Ill
Recently on Twitter, former Blink-182 bassist, Mark Hoppus, disclosed that he was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in April. Ironically, in June, I was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. So, when Hoppus tweeted last week about having difficulties accepting that he was having an OK moment, I completely understood where he was coming from.
For those who haven’t seen the tweet, it stated, “Had chemo on Wednesday and felt like hot garbage and haven’t really slept since. But this morning, this minute right now, I feel okay. I’ll take it.” And while Mark and I are talking about that regarding cancer, I think it can be true of any health condition.
For example, with cancer, there are definitely things we need to deal with that the general population doesn’t. For me, right now, that consists of accepting I have a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. It’s hard to wrap my head around because I had no idea I even had cancer, never mind Stage IV. To say the least, it’s a scary thing. And there’s a grieving process about how my life is going to change completely. Between chemotherapy, and multiple doctor’s appointments, and time off of work, everything is going to change.
What some people may not know, is the hardest part is watching everyone else in my life act like things are normal and OK. Half the time I want to scream and cry, because don’t they know? Everything is not OK. It’s the furthest thing from it. I’m dealing with the emotional exhaustion of having a cancer diagnosis, the physical exhaustion of going through treatment, and the constant monitoring of symptoms… Nothing feels OK right now.
So, when I have the rare moments that do feel OK, it’s hard not to push them away. At this point in my life, feeling OK seems like an inappropriate emotion. Additionally, I know feeling OK is only temporary. One minute, I’ll feel OK, and the next I’ll be sobbing under the covers of my bed. I don’t want to embrace feeling OK when I know it’s going to go away in the blink of an eye.
But part of having a health condition means getting used to the new normal. I’m not thrilled with it, but managing cancer is going to have to be part of my new normal. Especially considering my subtype of lymphoma is incurable, I need to accept that this diagnosis is something I’ll be dealing with for the rest of my life. And having OK moments is acceptable, even if they are scary.
To put the fear in perspective, most of the time it genuinely feels like my world’s on fire and I’m burning alive in the flames. So, it’s hard to step out of those flames for a minute when I know that my world is still on fire and those flames are going to come back and I’ll feel as if I’m burning alive once again. It’s hard to let myself relax enough to enjoy the good moments. But it’s also something I need to do for my own sanity.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. I still have to work to feel OK most of the time. It’s an active effort not to wallow in self-pity. But I need to allow myself to recognize the good moments, because if the bad moments are all I have, what’s the point? What’s the point in trying to get better? What’s the point of continuing to be a warrior?
And it took a while to accept that. It took a while to realize that allowing myself to feel OK doesn’t make my cancer diagnosis any less valid. While it was taboo to engage in my OK moments at first, I had to learn to let them in. And the OK moments don’t need to be extravagant. Lately, the thing that makes me feel most OK is watching my favorite streamer play video games on the internet and participating in the chatroom, and that’s fine. It’s OK for me to engage in things that bring me peace of mind, even if they’re small. Because at least I feel OK in that moment.
Because the one thing I’ve learned through experiencing severe mental health conditions for the past decade is that if I don’t let those moments of feeling OK in, my health conditions will eat me alive until I’m a shell of who I used to be. And I don’t want that to happen again. So, while it is absolutely heartbreaking to know I have cancer, and while I admittedly am experiencing more bad days than good, I need to let the good moments in when they come. Even if they’re not what I would consider “good” by my pre-cancer-diagnosis standards. Even if they’re just OK moments where I don’t feel like trash. I need to let them in.
For now, I have to just let myself feel the feelings. Whether they’re desirable or undesirable, I need to let myself accept them. And that includes feeling OK. Because even if it’s temporary, and even if I’ll feel underneath the world again soon, at least I let myself feel OK while it lasts. At least I gave myself hope that I still have the potential to feel OK. And sometimes, that’s all you can do.
Getty image by Eugene Sergeev.