We’re all so programmed to minimize our experiences.  I hear it a lot among women with breast cancer.  Whether it be in a discussion board or face-to-face conversation, it doesn’t take long for someone to say “I’m just dealing with hair loss” or “I’m only just stage two.”   I think there are two sides to this coin.  On one side, we know that someone else always has it worse.  And, on the other side, we’re relieved that we’re not that someone else.

Even at Stage IV I can preface a statement with “I’m just.”  I’m just taking Tamoxifen and haven’t had to deal with the horrors of chemical warfare; I have had no surgery and still have my breasts.  I just have metastasis to two spots in my spine, not every bone in my body.   I just have some spots on my lung, but not in my liver.   I’m just into the beginning of my disease, I’m not in hospice.  Yeah, someone always has it worse.

But that doesn’t minimize how I feel.  How disgusted I am that the back pain has returned in earnest when I thought it had become manageable only a week ago.  The times I get annoyed when the phone rings and I don’t feel well enough to talk to the person on the other end.  When I hate to call the doctor.  When I say I’m just fine because I don’t want to bore my friends with the cancer.  How angry I am that only eight months ago my biggest worry was whether or not I’d have enough money to retire well, now I wonder how long I’ll live.  I asked a colleague how he was in the face of his cancer treatment as I hadn’t seen him in some time; he’s quite exceptional and I’m sorry that he’s been going through that hell.  He sent me an email and mentioned the challenges associated with chemotherapy not unlike the many women who have lamented hair loss, a metallic taste, and perpetual runny noses.  “But,” he writes, “I forge ahead with work and professional responsibilities.”  I read that as a personal criticism–but that’s all on me and has nothing to do with my colleague.  As far as I know, this person has no idea of my circumstance.  It’s just the rawest edge of my personal experience.  The one that, no pun intended, cuts to the bone.

captureSince both sides of the coin have been taken, I guess the edge can count for something too.

Someone, somewhere, always has it better.

This entry was posted in Career Conundrums, My Stage IV Life, Stage IV Musings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Just

  1. jbaird says:

    Now that I have been diagnosed as Stage IV (since last November), I read with particular interest the blogs by those who share that disease with me. It’s natural. I want to know how they feel and where they are at and compare it with my own experience. I, too, find myself minimizing my inner trauma and demons and saying that I’m moving on. I don’t like to make people feel uncomfortable. Thanks for an incredibly insightful post. Jan

  2. Very true – it’s funny because sharing leads to comparison, but also understanding. Bit of a double edged sword . . .

  3. insahmity says:

    With my son, I have become a fan of reflective listening, thus acknowledging his feelings. When he gets a scratch, physically or emotionally, I always say some version of “Oh no, that hurts” — never, “That’s just a little scratch.” Your post reminds me to do it to myself and other adults. To acknowledge instead of minimize. Why are we trained to minimize? What’s the point? To feel better, because someone else always has it worse — yet it doesn’t work too well. As with your friend who had the baby, her experience was the worse thing that had happened to her, as cancer is the worst that has happened to you. It’s terrible.

  4. Oh THANK you for this! So TRUE! So TRUE! I minimize, I feel guilty, and I think about dying.

    One week I was sitting next to an elderly woman in church. Our congregation is about half over retirement age. I like to say that in our congregation, TAKE A NUMBER for the suffering and pain department. This woman had been home sick for several months and proceeded to list off the things she’d been battling (one of which was pneumonia, which I really hoped was not contagious, hello, chemo here!), remembered who she was talking to I guess and added, “But I haven’t had cancer!” I sort of appreciated the fact that she was acknowledging that she wasn’t alone in her ailments, so I chuckled along with her and added, “Or shingles!” as another woman in the congregation was just coming off a nasty bout with that. Take a number…sometimes it helps me keep my pains in perspective, and sometimes it makes me feel forgotten for what I am facing.

    Thank you for writing this. It helps so much when someone understands what those around me on a daily basis just don’t get.

  5. This is something those of us who aren’t stage IV struggle with a lot. How can we possibly complain when so many others have it so much worse? And yet I still get so darn pissed off at cancer…for oh so many reasons. I agree, no one’s feelings or experience should be minimized. No one knows another person’s true circumstances. Thanks so much for writing about this. I really respect your honesty and your truths.

    • Scorchy says:

      A friend of mine visited last weekend and she was telling me about the life and death drama that unfolded around the birth of her son–and his triumph over so many challenges. And even she caught herself at one moment and said, “I don’t have cancer, but.” And I said, “No, but that was the worst possible thing that could have happened to you.”

      Cancer is the wost thing that ever happened to me. I’ll bet some money that it’s the worst thing that ever happened to you, too. We all know that moment of fear, despair, anger, and helplessness. That’s the nugget of understanding that binds us together, that enabled me to understand my friend’s feelings about her son, for you to understand what I feel, and for me to understand you.

      Thanks for all of your continued support, Nancy!

  6. So well expressed… Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what so many of us with cancer think and feel.
    When I am having a difficult day, I find that my brain quickly chimes in to remind me that there are other people who have it much worse. I sometimes find myself saying, “There is always someone who has it worse, and there is always someone who has it better.”
    But it seems that our brains have an easier time clinging to the first half of that message.
    Warmest of wishes to you…

  7. dglassme says:

    Scorchy, I read this post and it just left me speechless, almost numb…you capture the essence of it all so well. One friend suggested I listen to the “Secret”, it’s not bad advice, their right find the positive in whatever the circumstance might be in hopes for the best rather than allow ourselves to dwell on the negative. And then there is the “if you’re mad you’re depressed”, really? Easy for anybody who doesn’t have the disease to say, reading your words that match the emotion I’m unable to express in the same terms helps to see at least I’m not alone, there are others who spend all day with 60,000 thoughts going through their mind of how to cope, how to rationalize because it’s not something we get to walk away from. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly, your indeed an incredible woman with great strength and insight.

  8. bcrcrider says:

    Reblogged this on Riding the BC Roller Coaster and commented:
    Maybe remember this when you find yourself wanting to minimize something (anything) someone else is going through by saying (some variation of) “someone else has it worse.”

  9. notself says:

    This link is to the NIH’s site called PubMed. Scorchy, Anonymous, you may wish to discuss turmeric with your oncs.


    Best wishes and love to all of us have this beastly disease.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I was diagnosed metastatic breast cancer Stage IV in May. There are six suspicious lesions on my spine.The largest one was biopsied and it was positive for hormone positive+ breast cancer. The assumption is the other lesions are cancer also but perhaps arthritis? Doesn’t matter. You thoughtful words are exactly what I am thinking/feeling most days. I think about dying on a regular basis regardless of “how well I am doing RIGHT now.” I am looking forward to going back into your archives and read your words. Thank you for helping me to “limp” along through my days of lonely and deeply sorrowful thoughts.

    • Scorchy says:

      Sorry to hear it. Very sorry indeed. It’s a difficult balance to maintain–to work toward a viable and enriched future, but always with this shadow hanging over us. We don’t want to be morose–even in our private moments–but you can’t help but think about it. Thanks for reading The Boob and keep on keeping on!

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