Over the years, I have found that often times a person does not want to share their breast cancer diagnosis with others for a variety of reasons. It may be that he/she is a very private person and doesn’t want others to know about it. It may be because the person doesn’t want or doesn’t know how to deal with the actions and reactions of others. After all, it is more than enough to deal with your own emotions at a time like this without having to deal with those of others as well. Or, it may be that others will think of them as weak either at this time or at some point in the future because of the cancer. The reasons go on and on but the one that I hear most often is that a person does not want to be defined by their breast cancer. However, this can cause a number of problems that can’t be foreseen by the patient.
So the next time that someone shares with you that they have breast cancer, please give them the courtesy of not defining everything they may do or say based upon their diagnosis. Barbara Jacoby
I can understand that no one wants to have people look at them differently because they had or have breast cancer. It is tough enough to deal with breast cancer without being treated like you have a communicable disease. You don’t want to have others think that you can no longer do your job because your brain doesn’t function properly due to chemo brain (even if you didn’t have chemo) or that you can’t pick up a box or take care of yourself alone. You don’t want others to look at you differently because you have some scars that may be visible if you dress in clothing that reveals them. And for many, you don’t want to engage in a relationship with a partner because that person may not be able to deal with your physical changes.
There are no two ways about it. Breast cancer does change a person, not only during the time of treatment and recovery but for the rest of your life. With some people, adjustment is easier because they truly don’t care what others think. This might include having a mastectomy and not having reconstruction and presenting themselves to the world as is. For others, they may do everything possible to restore themselves to as close to their original selves as possible, or for some, better than before. But what is not understood is that none of these things define a person who is a breast cancer survivor.
From my point of view, this is a phrase that has absolutely no meaning. Breast cancer can no more define a person than any other disease. We are not defined by what we have but rather by what we do. For instance, someone may have a fancy car and a big house but that only defines what they own and not how they came to possess those things. What defines them is how he or she behaves and how they treat others. What defines them is whether they share what they have or hoard everything that comes their way. What defines a person will never be what they have been able to amass but rather how they live their life and how they treat other people. What defines a person is their very essence and not what they wear, how they keep up their home or any other outward judgment.
So the next time that someone shares with you that they have breast cancer, please give them the courtesy of not defining everything they may do or say based upon their diagnosis. If they are not able to do something either at the moment or sometime in the future that they had done in the past, please don’t automatically decide that it is because of the cancer. For every patient, that diagnosis and subsequent treatment course will be a part of them for the rest of their lives and they certainly don’t need others around them reminding them of this on a regular basis as they endeavor to live as close to a normal life again after cancer as they can.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.