Sometimes when faced with a difficult situation like cancer, one becomes somebody else, and can be labeled as some sort of “hero”. But when the mask falls off, the reality is far different. Read more below.
A few weeks after I had finished all my treatments, I had lunch with a girlfriend. She had been present through every step of my battle against the big C and this meal was our way to celebrate my long awaited victory. As nice as it was to reflect on just how far I’d come and to start planning a new future, I realized something: no matter how close people had been to me during this, they would never fully understand what I had been through. Even worse, their perception of me was now totally biased.
It quickly became obvious that my friend saw me as some sort of a hero. She spent the entire lunch telling me how impressed she was of the way I had handled my illness and how she probably would not have been half as strong.
That made me mad. I knew she meant it as a compliment, so I kept my mouth shut, but, inside my head, a little voice was screaming: “But I am not different from you, I am not brave, I haven’t changed, I just did not have a choice, it was my life I was dealing with!”
Even in the new comic superhero movie, Deadpool, the title character is battling cancer and wants nothing to do with the “hero” title. The movie debunks the myth that all survivors are “superheroes”- when a lot of us don’t see ourselves that way. As this article so honestly points out, “Deadpool doesn’t reject being a superhero because it’s cool not to care, but because the meaning of ‘hero’ has shifted.”
To be honest, I didn’t even recognize myself during my long cancer battle. I completely dissociated from the reality of what was happening and it was as if I was floating above, outside myself. As soon as I heard the diagnosis, I turned into a soldier ready to do everything it takes to get better and I fought relentlessly. That was something I had never done before and will hopefully never have to do again.
I blocked off all my emotions as a survival mechanism. I stopped all my tears, tried to focus on the present, only the present, and took everything in stride.
The side effects from the various treatments were intense. I dreaded each new session of chemotherapy. As soon as I stepped inside the hospital, I would put on a brave face and smiled. I was terrified but it was my way of coping with the situation; the only way I knew how to go on.
So, to my surprise, I never once felt sorry for myself and rarely did I shed a tear. I barely cried when my beloved dog, Charlie, passed away shortly after the results of my biopsy. I barely cried when I discovered my scars or saw my new bald self for the first time. And I also barely cried when my friends got married while I was stuck in bed. Or when some turned their back to me, simply because they could not bear the sight of me.
Every day, I did my best to live as normally as possible, not necessarily how a “hero” would. I kept on exercising, nearly as much as possible, because it gave me the impression that I was doing something good for my body. I saw my friends as often as I could, even when having fun was the last thing on my mind, because I needed to convince myself that I was still a normal person. I kept on working for my company, on a part time basis, because it allowed me to think that I was still being useful. And I tried not to be upset when people said stupid things or looked at me in a weird way because I realized that I had to live for me and not according to standards imposed by society.
But when this nightmare finally came to an end, I dreamt one night of my dog Charlie, and the pain became so vivid that I woke up in tears. And for the next few hours, I cried all the tears I had not let out for nearly a year. I cried for all the pains I had been through, I cried for my dog, I cried for the children I would never have, and I cried for all the other dreams I would no longer be able to achieve.
So I am definitely not a hero but just a regular gal who, at a moment in time, had to become somebody she is not, in order to fight for her life.
Have you ever been called a hero for fighting cancer? What’s your opinion on that title? Share your view in the comments below! Deadpool photo courtesy of Sideshow Collectibles.