“No one wants to hear your cancer story,” my mother says.
   I’ve just shared with her a speech I intended to give to supporters who are about to lose a political battle I’ve championed. I want to tell them what it’s like to live a daily battle you know you’re going to end up losing and how it makes you redefine winning. I want to use it as an analogy of what we’re all about to face.
   My mother’s words cut through me. Maybe it’s the wine. Moreso, it’s the naked truth. Six years into a battle with metastatic breast cancer, even I’m getting tired of my story.
   I’ve stopped sharing with people the anxiety I feel before the PET scans I get every three months. I’ve stopped telling people when my cancer returns and what changes that means in my life. I suffer silently with the indignation and embarrassment treatment can bring, like the fungal infection growing in my pubic area.
   When I go to my pharmacist to pick up the medication to treat it, I think. “He knows.” And then I think, “but he doesn’t want to hear my story.”
   One of my political adversaries attacks me on social media over the losing position I’ve taken. Later, she’s attacked. In her response, she reveals her mother is now also battling metastatic breast cancer.  There’s an overwhelming outpouring of support.
   Cancer hands me another lesson I don’t want to learn. I need to make peace with the self-righteous indignation I feel, the defensive, raging tape looping in my head. No one wants to hear my story. Instead, I need to learn to have compassion for people who don’t have compassion for me. These are bitter pills to swallow, along with the six horse-sized chemo pills I take daily. The ones that come in a plastic bag marked “poison” with a skull and crossbones on it.
   “Why would you do that?” my husband asks when I tell him the angst I’m going through in trying to calm the voices in my head. “You know you don’t have to. I wouldn’t.”
   I have to give that some thought. Why indeed? Because I’m tired of the fear and anxiety of this disease and the tension these antagonizing voices feed. Because if my time here is limited, I want to relax and enjoy it.
   “Lay down the sword, pick up the feather,” a friend tells me. I know this to be true. Perhaps this now is my story. And just maybe it is one people will want to hear.

Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson

Writer. Blogger. Advocate. Breast Cancer Conscript.

2 Comments

  • Hi Liz,

    Lots to think about here. I am wondering why your mother would say such a thing. I think your analogy was perfect and might’ve helped to clarify your points about winning/losing regarding the political angle. I say, whenever you can bring a personal aspect into something to bring home whatever points you’re trying to make, that’s a good thing.

    I’m not sure when, or even if, anyone’s story becomes “old”. What does that even mean? There are always new listeners perhaps in need of hearing your story, are there not? I think only you can decide if you want to tell your story at all, how much of it to tell, how often to tell it and who to tell it too.

    That’s my two cents. Great read, as usual.

    • Thanks Nancy! I think for those of us in the breast cancer community, the story never gets old. But many people who are well into the stageiv battle tell me they feel the same about telling their story to others who don’t know cancer the way we do. Unless you’re dying, who wants to hear about the struggles, the cancer’s back, now it’s gone, now it’s back, oh yeah and now I have a yeast infection from the drugs. My mother wasn’t being mean, just honest. Most of all, thanks for your continued support. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

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