CANCER: HOW I CAME OUT OF THE "CANCER CLOSET"
The Many Rants, Raves, and Rambles of Catherine
The balance of cancer and Katie
When I was diagnosed with my cancer in July of last year, I kept the information very quiet. At first, there were only a very small handful of people who knew of my situation. As time passed, in November of 2015 I came out of the "cancer closet" and announced my diagnosis to the world. Explaining my condition in that way was easy. I was able to tell a large amount of people about what was going on and why my life was the way it was without having 50 trillion questions, having to say the same thing over and over again, and without having to deal with peoples reactions because I had the comfort of announcing it from a controlled forum.
But with that, when I was diagnosed, I no longer lived in the Brigham City area, so while people now knew I had cancer, I still never had to see anyone. In a way, it made it easier at the time. Not having to worry about what people thought or how they would treat me now that I was "sick Catie." In a way though, I created a whole different issue that I didn't even realize existed til a month or so ago.
I began getting invited to things at home: farewells, homecomings, parties, and other social events. I soon realized that because I had chosen to isolate myself from those back home, I was terrified to go to those events because I had no idea how to act. I had no idea how anyone would treat me. Would we talk about cancer? Because if I'm going to a wedding I definitely don't want to take attention from the happy couple and have people focusing on me because of my disease. Do we just act like everything is normal? But how do I not mention the cancer when people have asked me how I've been and what I'm doing. I don't want the pity eyes and the questions... but I also kind of want the questions because what I'm going through is hard and I want to be heard and understood.
I missed a lot of events because of the social anxiety that my diagnosis brought, and honestly, looking back on that, that makes me very sad. I missed lots of good friends weddings and other events that I could have been making memories with, but I let my diagnosis keep me from them.
In August, I decided enough was enough and decided to force myself to attend an event in my hometown of Brigham. It was an emotional roller coaster for me honestly... The night before I got so much anxiety that I hardly slept. In the morning my dad had to literally talk me out of bed and to get into the shower. As I was driving, I almost turned around several times and cried. I parked my car and sat there for a solid 10 minutes and then finally got myself to go to the event... and guess what? It was fine. I'm not going to say it was great or fantastic, because honestly, I was still an anxious mess the whole time, but my friends were all still perfectly kind to me. Some who I had not seen for several years told me that they knew about my diagnosis and to let them know if I needed anything. A few asked me some basic questions, and the rest of the time it was just pleasant small talk.
A few weeks later, I decided to brave it once again, and went to the county fair. And guess what? Once I got there my cancer diagnosis was completely forgotten by me. I didn't feel like "that cancer kid" or "the sick girl", I was just Catie enjoying the fair and rodeo with some friends. I'm sure some people saw me that I knew, and knew about my situation, but I'm really proud that I took the steps to overcome that social anxiety.
I'm sure I'll still get nervous whenever I go to things in my hometown, just because not many 20 year olds are accustomed to their peers having a potentially terminal disease, but I'm not going to let that keep me from attending the things I want to, and making memories with those I care about.
If you see me at these events: It's okay to talk about the cancer, it's not a secret. If you ask me how I'm feeling, I probably will just say decent as decent as good as we get these days. Some days I'll be wearing fake hair, some days I'll probably be rocking the fuzz... Don't worry, I love both and won't get offended if you stare. All in all though, I'm still me, so please don't feel weird or uncomfortable about approaching me. I love talking to people, I love knowing people care. I'm still the friendly sassy Catie I was before, and I refuse to let cancer diminish that.
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