Opinion. I receive many messages from people across the world. Recently, one person asked me if I saw myself as a sick person. I found it a really interesting question because someone with cancer must be sick, right?
When I was diagnosed, I really didn’t feel unwell, not how I thought a Stage 4 cancer patient would feel and not even ill enough to consider myself a ‘sick person’. Prior to that, I suppose like everyone else on the planet, I had normal day-to-day stuff come along but that always settled in days or weeks. But never enough to call myself a sick person other than as a temporary label. Quite often I would ignore the illness and continue working and also continue normal day to day activities. In hindsight, some of these issues might have been connected to my cancer but that’s the nature of medicine sometimes. I try not to reflect too much on what might have been.
Even some months after diagnosis of my advanced and incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer, I still didn’t feel unwell and continued to work and go on holiday. Chris and I jetted off eight weeks after the diagnosis, there was a nice gap right in between starting daily octreotide and a liver embolization. Why not!
OK the subsequent procedures and surgeries I had were tough and I guess if you looked at me lying in a hospital bed with a dozen pipes going in and out of my body, you would quite rightly assume I was a sick person. But as I said above, it’s only ever been a temporary label because when I was stronger, I went back to work, continued going on holiday and continued going about my life in a relatively normal fashion. I’m not special or unique as millions of cancer patients do something similar. Sure, I made changes, but sick or not, don’t we all make adjustments to suit changes in circumstance?
Despite the furore that erupts in reaction to the ubiquitous invisible illness clichés we see, I don’t really mind ‘looking well’, who actually wants to look unwell? I’m very happy to look well, and very happy to feel well. I’m not seeking pity or victim status by demanding people to say that I have to look unwell simply because I have cancer. While we’re on the subject of labels, I have cancer but please don’t call me a ‘sufferer’ – I’m far from being a sufferer, an old-fashioned term for those with illness and I’m thankful to see less use of the term today.
I can’t undo my diagnosis of advanced and incurable cancer. I have cancer but I can still get on with living my life.
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