It seems crazy to think I was only eight at the point of diagnosis. Growing up to me was about distancing myself from cancer, focusing on different aspects of myself in order to be known for something else. To destroy my ‘cancer girl’ title. I wanted there to be no connection between my name and my diagnosis. I now realise who I really wanted to be; someone else.
How heart braking is that? I wanted to live in someone else’s body, have someone else’s life, be normal. I literally used to imagine myself as a normal girl in order to sleep. I would immerse myself in thoughts about what I would do with my day if I were this imaginary normal girl, and hope and pray that I’d wake up as her – because I couldn’t bare the thought of another day being me.
I did this for years, and have not told anyone (well I guess I have now lol) – and it brings me to tears when I imagine another teenage girl doing the same.
It’s taken me a long ol’ time to get to where I am now, at almost complete acceptance of self (some things I do are still v problematic, but everyones a work-in-progress, right?). And this has happened through a lot of inward thinking and, eventually, understanding.
A few years ago, I started to accept that cancer remission is part of me. Living in remission plays a big part in my life, and treatment played a huge part in shaping my character. When uni finished, it gave me the headspace to realise that it’s a very big part of me; one that I really care about. Talking about it and helping others going through similar circumstances is the only thing that makes me feel like I have a higher purpose in this world.
So, this is now part of my identity. The difference now is that it is more of a choice. As a child, it wasn’t my choice for cancer to be part of my identity. I wanted people to notice me for me, and not for my physical signs of treatment, like my crutches, thin hair, or limp. So I tried everything in my power to control other parts of my identity. This eventually boiled down to having major control issues, which I will write another post about.
I used to hate talking about my treatment, and was discouraged from doing so because it made other people sad. Especially by my immediate family, and I didn’t want to cause them (or anyone else) any unnecessary sadness. So I didn’t talk about it unless I really had to, e.g. at hospital appointments.
Nowadays, I have only a few appointments per year. And I’m not asked about my cancer nearly as much due to my physical symptoms being far less noticeable. How funny that it’s taken until now for me to actually want to talk about it. I’m glad that I’ve started to talk openly, and that I’ve accepted cancer remission as a big part of my identity. It has always felt like the elephant in the room (the room being my brain haha) and he’s finally free. Ready to become a point of reference for others, instead of sitting quietly (and uselessly) inside my head.