I Had Ovarian Cancer, and This Is Why I Need to Talk About It
Since my ovarian cancer diagnosis, I have received many different responses from people who have heard my story.
“Oh! I am so sorry you went through that.”
“Are you OK?”
“It’s so wonderful the surgeon removed it all.”
“Let’s focus on the fact you are cancer-free.”
“Mind over matter, right?”
I completely understand people mean well. All they want is the best for me. And I truly appreciate it. But while I receive these well-meaning comments, I began to notice a couple of things.
The nonverbal signs were clear. Loud gasps, awkward silences, soft voices, followed by denial, apparent fear, and what I would like to call societal answers. These answers include the responses from above. I believe these answers come from a place of fear and good intentions.
When the word “cancer” is spoken, fear arises in everyone in the room. Memories of friends, family members and acquaintances rush into the mind and sadness falls into the soul.
Cancer is a horrible disease and it is difficult to discuss it. Therefore, care should be taken when talking about it.
But that is the point.
I think it is important to talk about it. Holding in the fears and memories eats away at us until there is nothing left.
No, my ovarian cancer diagnosis should not be the subject of every conversation. But I should be able to talk about it in the appropriate moments. I should be able to talk about my fears and nightmares to my closest friends and family. I need to talk it out because that helps me process what happened.
When I process, I heal. And that is all I want to do after receiving this diagnosis.
I need it to be acknowledged I had ovarian cancer. I don’t want the topic to be ignored. I don’t want it to be a secret. I don’t want to talk about it in a roundabout way. I want to be able to share my thoughts and feelings without having to sugarcoat it. I don’t want to have to keep in my fears. I want acknowledgment of my feelings and support while I find my way through the healing process.
Most importantly, I need validation.
I want to hear my feelings are OK. I need to keep hearing my anxiety over my health is normal. I need to be told it is completely normal for me to be afraid of doctors, my own body and of the cancer coming back.
Over time, my anxiety and fears will lessen. But before then, I want acknowledgment ovarian cancer happened. I want as much validation as I can possibly get. Because without it, I am not sure I will heal anytime soon. And believe me, I want to heal soon.
It sounds like I want a lot. But in reality, I think anyone who has been through a frightening medical experience should have the chance to talk about it as many times as they need to. So, if you know someone who is dealing with a medical condition, please listen to them. Validate their experiences, even if you have never been through something similar.
Your validation can make a huge difference.
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Thinkstock photo by Veleri