There is a woman, a very private woman (let's call her "Our Lady With Cancer") who felt oddly ignored during and after her breast cancer "experience." And it seems Our Lady With Cancer brought it all on herself. How so? In choosing not to tell everyone on earth about her diagnosis, she cut off a large lifeline of people that could have made her journey so much easier.
You see, coming out publicly about having cancer is not in Our Lady With Cancer's blood. She is diligent about keeping references to her health off of Facebook. To her "friends" not in the know, they would never know what she is really going through. And that's the way she likes it. She continues to post pretty pictures and comment on others' FB posts, but she keeps the biggest secret of her life to herself — an attempt at controlling an uncontrollable beast.
She tells the people who need to know — the people she is closest to, her family, the folks she trusts. But she can't handle the thought of being talked about or rejected during this very vulnerable time. So she continues to keep "it" quiet.
She also tells a select few people who are large cogs in her social wheel... people she knows will get the word out. She doesn't want to have to say "I have cancer" too many times. She knows if she turns on the faucet, they will come to the trough.
So it comes as quite a shock when Our Lady With Cancer's pool of support slowly dries up in the weeks and months following her bilateral mastectomy. Though she doesn't talk about "it" on Facebook, she is still surprised when no one addresses her dance with cancer — publicly or privately.
Even members of her extended family are strangely silent. How can this be? She imagines how some would handle a cancer diagnosis — how it would be all they talked about, every detail dripping in drama, drama, drama.
Well, be careful what you wish for, Our Lady With Cancer: You never wanted too much attention, and so you never got it. Our Lady begins to question her worth as a friend, a family member, a patient, a human being in need. She struggles with asking for help when help has never been offered in the first place. The fear of rejection is stifling her vulnerability.
One day she goes to lunch with a friend (who is also friends with one of the "cogs") and is shocked to learn said friend doesn't know she has cancer. WTF? Our Lady With Cancer emails another former friend — and finds that person similarly shocked. Turns out the cog has kept quiet — respecting the very privacy that is so beloved by Our Lady With Cancer. (Well, what do you know about that!)
Our Lady With Cancer attends a baby shower. The room is packed with people. She decides not to keep "it" a secret any longer. She will openly and gladly talk about her breast cancer experience with anyone at the party who asks. Yet, remarkably, no one does.
But this time, she is not silenced. Our Lady With Cancer brings "it" up. She shocks many in the room that day. Jaws drop left and right. She talks about her fears, her cancer, her reconstruction. In fact, cancer is all she talks about. When she leaves the party, it is with a newfound (and hard-won) freedom. And a lightness of being. An almost unbearable lightness of being.
Now Our Lady With Cancer mentions "it" whenever it is appropriate. On the hiking trail, she falls into conversation with another hiker and tells him she is recovering from breast cancer surgery; he in turn tells her about a close friend with breast cancer who just completed the Ironman. At a farmer's market, Our Lady With Cancer asks for help to her car because she cannot carry heavy bags after her double mastectomy; the woman helping her reveals her own battle with stomach cancer. Our Lady With Cancer is no longer afraid to talk about cancer. And she realizes an old school truth: People are not talking about her. They are not focused on her. They are focused on themselves.
After a friend is diagnosed, Our Lady With Cancer emails — expressing concern and revealing her own cancer. The woman writes back, "Yes, I know. I heard." Our Lady With Cancer understands that people do not always know what to say to people who have cancer. Especially private people who have cancer.