Every so often, someone will tell me they feel bad talking to me about their own cancer experiences because they have had an easier time than I have (because they didn’t have a mastectomy, they didn’t get sick from chemo, they sailed through radiation or they don’t have mets).
I always tell them that cancer is scary and traumatic now matter how you experience it.
And besides, it wouldn’t make things easier for me if someone else were sicker.
Last night, I was at a beautiful event, celebrating the career of Deborah Bourque, the former President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (this is not a non-sequitur. Please bear with me). It was also an opportunity for women working in the labour movement to get together, celebrate our own achievements and commiserate on the challenges we face as women members, staff and leaders of unions (we also ate great food, had a few drinks and shared some laughs).
It was a bittersweet event for me. I saw many wonderful women I hadn’t connected with in a great long while. I loved that part. But it’s hard to be reminded that I am not really part of that milieu any more. Those day to day struggles are no longer mine.
I don’t miss the stress but I do miss the adrenaline.
I don’t miss the bureaucry but I do miss the work.
I don’t miss the workplace politics but I do miss the collaboration.
I don’t miss the frustration but I do miss the joy that comes with success.
It is easier now not to feel this loss so acutely. There are so many good things about my life. Now that the book is finished, I feel that I have an accomplishment that I can talk about. And now that I have begun to think of myself as a writer, I don’t feel the loss of identity as a union activist so acutely.
This brings me back to the original point of this post.
I was out for a walk with the dogs today (it’s beautiful and unseasonably warm in Ottawa) and feeling a little bit sad. And then I felt guilty because there are so many women who are forced to work through cancer treatment and pay a tremendous physical price (others work find it helpful to work, which is a different thing), who don’t have health insurance, drug coverage, a supportive spouse, or a roof over their heads. I felt guilty that I should be feeling sad when I am healthy enough to play with my kids, go out with my friends and walk my dogs on a beautiful day.
But I was reminded at the conference this past week end that cancer is a very personal thing, in it’s manifestations and in how it is experienced.
We gain nothing in judging ourselves or each other.
And we gain nothing when we deny our sadness, anger or joy.
Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.