January 4, 2010

bad days

through this experience with cancer, i've tried to focus on the lessons, and tried to learn as much as i could. i remember thinking during the first few weeks of my diagnosis that i had a lot to learn, and it almost 'made sense' for me to experience cancer. i should mention that i have a very strong sense that the universe works everything out the way it should, so i don't feel randomly victimized by cancer, nor do i think some higher power 'chose me'. i simply take the hand as it's dealt, and try figure out what i have to gain from it instead of seeing what i have to lose. and, five months later i've realized that there's a whole lot more to learn than i ever thought...

the biggest challenge i've faced is coming to terms with my own issues. i have a really strong superwoman complex, and try really hard to be the 'perfect cancer patient'...always optimistic, smiling and taking everything one day at a time. most of the time it comes naturally and i am genuinely optimistic, hopeful and full of life. i really feel that this experience with cancer is the best thing to happen to me, and has given me so much. however, getting through the marathon treatment (close to nine months once it's all done) would drag anyone down to a few bad days.

i don't like to have bad days. bad days remind me that cancer is a scary thing. bad days remind me that i'm not superwoman. and bad days remind me that cancer has left me with issues to resolve (or surfaced them, anyways). everyone tells me it's alright to have bad days, and even that it's expected. well, i still don't like them. and, i don't often (if ever) show them to anyone. but, a lot of the experience with cancer is becoming real, learning everything i can, and being able to help others. i can't do any of those things without admitting that i, too, have bad days.

so, in my typical coping style, i try to find the good in the bad days. one thing bad days are good for is forcing me to face the things i've pushed aside. i've carried through with such genuine optimism most of the time, which makes me totally forget that experiencing cancer is life changing. it's a big deal, especially at a young age, to face your own mortality. i deserve a little credit for just surviving diagnosis and treatment. i also deserve to give myself room to reflect on just how traumatizing it is to go through. not traumatizing in the way many of us think of it, but in the sense that life really got shaken up, and things moved so quickly that i didn't have time to deal with all of it. so, i guess i should be allowed a little time to do so every now and then.

another thing bad days are good for is reminding me that i'm human. once i was diagnosed, i became a cancer warrior, and have found that my optimistic attitude and fearless fighter role has left me with quite a superwoman complex. every time i have a bad day i worry first about how others will be affected by it, and spend little time focusing on what's going on with me. instead, i try to hide the bad day so it doesn't worry anyone else. this is the hardest part of bad days. one day i'll figure it out. until then, i will try to admit to myself that i, too, am still just human.

and, lastly, the most meaningful thing about my experience has been my ability to help others, and gaining experience and wisdom to continue to help others in the future. every time i can reach out and use my experience with cancer to help someone i'm reminded that every bit of hell i've gone through is so worth it. so, i've decided to pursue oncology social work once i've completed my masters. some people ask me if it'll be tough for me to be around cancer all the time, and see a lot of the really dark parts of cancer that i haven't seen with my experience. it might be, but it's not about me. i know i have a lot to offer from having experienced cancer...and, while it may be tough, if it can help someone else, it'll be worth it. so, how do bad days relate to this? well, if i never had any issues with my cancer experience i bet it'd be harder to relate to other cancer patients in my career. and, bad days remind me i have issues to resolve, and that's something i need to do before i can really help anyone else. so, bad days will help me help others.

...this may be the longest and most honest blog post yet. and, it may be more for my own personal growth than anything else. but, as part of my journey, i think it's important that i start owning up to the fact that i have bad days...i can be optimistic and still have bad days. perhaps i'm still learning that the two can, in fact, go together. moral of the story...bad days can do a lot of good.


  1. Grace- would you feel comfortable sending me your email address?

  2. I'm ALWAYS here if you need me...sending lots of love and admiration. I'm so proud of you!!!!!!!!!!