• How do you make your beloved ones see you again as a person and not as a cancer patient or survivor?

    Asked by ymeg on Monday, November 28, 2011

    How do you make your beloved ones see you again as a person and not as a cancer patient or survivor?

    When you have passed the worst (at least that's what you hope) after being declared in remission or when you are going thru further preventative treatments, you want to regain your life prior to cancer. You want to be seen as the woman (or the man) you were before. You want to start making plans again and go back to your "normal" life as much as it is possible. However, how can a cancer survivor/patient move on, when there are beloved ones who never stop asking about the status of the illness or post-illness over and over, and you have to repeat the same thing more than 10 times!
    * I might sound selfish, but I do want to move on and really embrace my survivorship but everytime someone asks me how I am doing with the cancer issue I feel that I am going backwards instead of moving ahead. Any advice that has worked for you?

    7 Answers from the Community

    7 answers
    • mspinkladybug's Avatar

      Tell them you are moving forward and that right now and trying to get back to normal talk about your plan and what you want to do with your new life when every anyone ask about cancer was a disease i had it is not who I am..

      almost 6 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      My approach has been to keep a blog... Hopefully, my friends are going there to get updates. I seem to receive far fewer questions on a regular basis. It's hard, though, because no one - including us - knows how to talk about this stuff... and especially we don't know WHEN we ought to talk about it... or not talk about it.

      Bottom line - I usually ask people to let me be in charge of when to talk about or not talk about cancer. Just the other day, a co-worker was grilling me on the status of my treatments - and I mean grilling me. I had to tell her THREE TIMES that I didn't want to talk about it. The problem, of course, is that once the brain is focused on cancer, it's hard to get it to focus on something else - like... you know... work? Yet, everytime she sees me, she goes into grill mode and appears offended that I don't want to talk to her about my cancer treatment on her demand. This is sooooo frustrating. So, now what do I do? The totally mature thing, of course... I avoid her.

      Most people are super when it comes to letting me say - I don't want to talk about it right now. They usually just change the topic.. or say okay... look at me awkwardly... and then move on... That I can handle. Often, I'll just give them my blog info, and I'll let them know that I keep it pretty up to date... People seem to like that.

      The blog helps me too - I kind of process things better when I write on it. I think about what I want to share.. how I'm feeling.. whether I feel like things are going well or freaking me out... and then post. about twice a week is my average.

      So, I highly recommend it. You can use a site like caringbridge... or set up your own on blogspot or wordpress. I did the latter... rleepenn.wordpress.com.

      As for getting family and friends to just see me rather than the cancer patient... That's tough. I sometimes tell them I just don't want to hear about it. Like - talk about that stuff behind my back please. I want to live in the illusion that I'm just a regular person....

      I hope this helps.
      Best wishes,

      almost 6 years ago
    • CarolLHRN's Avatar


      I couldn't agree more with you. I am putting my life on hold to get through all of my treatments. When it is over, everyone wants to go on vacation. Um, I just want to get back to doing the things I love and being "normal" again. It doesn't seem to matter what I want though. It's extremely frustrating.

      As I am going through treatments and people are doing things for me and saying I can't do things because I am "sick", I simply say, in my best Spamalot voice, "I'm not dead yet!". It's a little funny and it helps people realize that I'm OK without having to be confrontational or upset anyone.

      I think as people begin to see you moving on with your life the questions will become less and less. When people ask, you can say something like I beat it, and now I'm going to beat _____ . I think talking about it in the past and focusing on the here and now is best.

      almost 6 years ago
    • ymeg's Avatar

      Thanks everyone who have replied so far. Last night (and all this holiday weekend) I was having such a hard time with that topic because everyone who called me or saw me recently has asked me about nothing but my cancer status. Your responses were awesome!

      @mspinkladybug: I've tried asking them to leave me alone (of course in a nice way), but it didn't work :(

      @leepenn:I loved the idea about the blog. I started one but then I gave up because my in-laws read it and then called me to discuss each of the postings...that was just too much, myabe I should try again but now setting up the boundaries. I can totally relate to that issue with the coworkers, because I have a couple of annoying coworkers who do that even if I give them lots of hints that I don't want to talk about it. We have another colleague who is a stage 4 breast cancer patient and they are always annoying her too. I even had to stepped in and literally tell these two people to leave her alone. They said they love her but I also know they like to gossip a lot. Anyway, who would imagine that 3 years later I would be on the other side of the fence with my colleague who is one of my inspirations. The first day I found out about it, she called me (because the other 2 heard about me and told her right away about my new condition). She told me, be strong my friend and don't be surprised that some of our coworkers are too nosy.
      I guess I should avoid them completely. I feel bad because I am currently on disability but I know our work relationship won't be the same when I go back..but oh well, I need to focus on what and who should be my priorities from now on.

      almost 6 years ago
    • ymeg's Avatar

      @CarolLHRN: Thanks for the response. You are right, humor is always a good therapy. I once told my dad that I no longer needed him to drive me around because the doctors said I could drive again and he took it the wrong way. It has taken me a few months after chemo to make him understand I no longer need as much help as before.

      almost 6 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      ymeg - you know, i have another answer now... as i am nearing the end of my treatment plan...

      and i think part of it is also how we view ourselves.
      do i view myself as lee penn? or do i view myself as somewhat or even completely defined by my diagnosis?

      as i face surgery... and a radical change to my body... and the recovery from chemo... i am beginning to feel like lee penn again. as i grow more hair... and regain my fitness... i feel more like lee penn.... and less like cancer patient.

      so, i guess what i'm feeling is that i need to take some ownership in viewing my own self as lee penn again.... as opposed to cancer patient. and so, i am rebuilding the bits of my pre-cancer life that i love so dearly - athletic fitness... being able to run my child literally into the ground (i.e., exhaust him)... bad XXX science... teaching... loving my sweetiepie with my entire heart... and more.

      those are my current thoughts, and you know what? it is relieving to see myself making this transition.... that i am moving beyond seeing my life dominated by cancer and returning to leepenn-ness.

      so.... that makes me wish to ask you - how are you feeling about your own status? how are others behaving around you? do you feel like you are able to head in the right direction?



      over 5 years ago
    • graygoose311's Avatar

      Dear YMeg, first, how do you view yourself, as a patient or a person who had a disease? You have made it so far and I believe that you really want to just get back to your life. Cancer leaves us as different people than we were before but I believe it is like any other thing in life we encounter. We are not defined by what has happened to us but rather how we meet those challenges head on. It seems to me you met it head on, dealt with it and moved on to the next part of your life. The next time someone asks you how you are with the cancer thing, your reply can be a question to them, "how would you deal with it" and say when you can answer that question then you can ask me more. I have moved on with my life and am feeling great! If you do not want to discuss it with anyone, thank them for their interest but say this is not the time to discuss any thing further. Most people don't know what to ask or when and they feel some fear that this could possibly happen to them. Fear drives some folks to ask really inappropriately timed questions. Look at yourself in the mirror and say "I have moved on, life is good". I pray for your continued recovery and know that there a lot of people walking your path with you and are supporting you. Don't put any thing on hold, just live, Blessings, Trish

      about 5 years ago

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