As time goes by and I am privileged enough to meet more and more people who have dealt with or are dealing with breast cancer, or for that matter, any type of cancer, I am amazed at how many have never shared the information with those who are closest to them. I know that I was not willing to tell anyone about my first dealings with cancer because it took everything I had to deal with it myself let alone trying to repeat my diagnosis and treatment program to others over and over again. And while most people are well meaning in their intentions to help, the last thing a patient needs to hear is the advice, suggestions and even horror stories from another person. But, at some point, a patient will hopefully reach the point where they find a way to release all of the pent up feelings and emotions and concerns and thoughts and feelings rather than carry them around silently within their minds.
I am not sure exactly where we learn that it is inappropriate or unacceptable to share our thoughts and feelings with others but the first thing that came to mind is a saying that most of us heard as a child. At some point, most of us were told that "children should be seen and not heard" and for some, this sentiment continues to be carried throughout our lives especially if there were other repercussions that came along with this "discipline." However, this comment, even said somewhat half-heartedly can harm the person not only as that child but also in their future as an adult. If you are told that you are not to be heard, there is a good chance that you won't speak up when you really need to be heard. And that not only can be detrimental to a child who truly needs the help of an adult but also to an adult who has never learned how to communicate effectively with others as a result.
For me, I learned my lesson early on as a child but had it reinforced as an adult in my domestic abuse situation. I learned that if I did not talk back or fight back or do anything other than what I needed to do (like avoid the gun that was pointed toward me) that my aggressor was not overly antagonized and therefore would limit the attack on me. This seemed to serve me well throughout life as I would always do or say as little as possible so that no one else needed to pay any attention to me. After all, no attention was so much better than any negative attention and seemed to work out really well as a life choice. However, I missed a key component as a result. I thought that if I did well by not having others pay attention to me, they would do well by my not paying attention to them either. In this way, we were responsible for only our own lives and ourselves and had no one to blame if something went wrong in our lives other than ourselves. Boy, was I wrong!
I thought that we all have our own stories of what we had to learn and overcome and that each person's situation was their own. And although that is somewhat accurate, I soon learned that by sharing my thoughts and feelings with others, not only was it a good outlet for me but it was also helping others who thought that they were all alone. It is not a matter of telling others how they should handle their own situations but rather letting others know that there are many of life's situations that we do have in common and that, if they wish, they might just get some help by asking for it and knowing that there are others willing to help. And while the first person with whom you share your questions or problems may not have any answers, they may know someone who might have that help and be able to direct your inquiries elsewhere for a response.
This applies to all facets of our lives and truly becomes most important when dealing with cancer or any illness. The more you know, the better you are in a position to get the answers that you need. And if you can't find the answers, ask your professional team for help. No matter what is bothering you or with what you are dealing on a physical or emotional level, you can't get the help you need unless you ask for it. And you just might be surprised at the most unlikely source from which it may come. Whether you are dealing with breast cancer or any other cancer or major illness or situation in your life, talking about your journey is the only way that you can get the help or assistance that you need and you just might find that by your sharing, you can help someone else who is dealing with the same matters that you are.