I had the opportunity to be a guest on two Voice of America Teen Wealth radio shows with host Brandi England. The first show went smoothly at the end of April. (Here is the first episode).
The second show was last night. The topic was cancer. Here it is if you have 54 minutes to spare.
It has been two years since I was diagnosed and I have not spoken out loud about cancer beyond a therapist’s room. My immediate family don’t really enjoy being reminded of my cancer and friends rarely bring it up. I’ve written a lot about cancer but never had a public conversation about how it feels to have cancer.
Nobody wants to talk about cancer. That’s a fact. This is because cancer is hard to talk about. I found that out last night. This second show was less smooth and there were more um’s and ah’s from me. I was much less polished than the first show, where I talked about being a mother and having a kid with a disability. Cancer is not that familiar to me. I’m still figuring out what has happened to me over the past two years and it showed in this radio conversation.
Why was it so hard for me to talk about cancer? It is the relative new-ness of the topic for me. It is because it is hard to inject humour into the conversation and I like to use humour to connect with audiences. I mean, with other people who have had cancer, we often laugh hysterically at the ridiculousness of it all. But for the general public, laughing at cancer is taboo. (Although at one point on the show, I shouted: I DON’T NEED YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS). I’m always aware that the people I’m talking to probably had a loved one with cancer and watch my words to make sure I’m respectful of that inevitability. People have all sorts of whacky theories about cancer, too. Cancer is a muddy minefield of a conversation topic.
In the end, here is some of what I said:
Cancer stopped me in my tracks. It was my great reckoning.
It’s actually pretty horrible telling people you have cancer.
Cancer really messes with your mind. It is lonely and isolating.
Pretending to be brave and strong is exhausting.
I also talked about the horrible task of telling your own children that you have cancer.
Afterwards, my husband said: you did a good job with a hard topic. I’ll take that. Instead of beating myself up, I’ve decided to practice self-kindness. I do want to bring cancer out of the shadows and uncover its dark secrets. But it is tough. Today I have, as Brené Brown says, a vulnerability hangover.
The cancer part of my life is not wrapped up with a tidy pink bow. There is no happily ever after. My story continues on, messy and undone. And if we are honest about it, life in general is messy and undone too. We are all but works in progress.