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Monday, 25 March 2013

What is tough?

I'm tough.  At least I think I am.  I've gone through some really rough patches and am I'm still around to tell about it.

It's amazing how we qualify how tough someone is by what they've been through.  And is it enough to know that you are tough, or do you need other people to know it too?  It is enough to think "I've survived hell", or do we need to publicly be tougher than the next person.  Is toughness a one-uper game?

The other day at work, someone was talking about one of my coworkers who is heading in for back surgery.  They said "oh, she'll recover quickly, she a tough woman, after all, she beat cancer.  You don't beat cancer by not being tough" .  The follow up was "Yeah, none of us will ever be as tough as her, we've never faced cancer.".  Now, I don't particularly like the "tough" coworker, but in my mind, it was all about 'you don't know me, you don't know how much I've been through'.  All I said was that I thought that there were probably a lot of tough people on the staff and some people just keep their struggles to themselves.  The concensus was that nope, cancer was the number one thing that made people tough and none of us knew what it was like.

Fucking bullshit!  I just wanted to shout from the hilltops that I've been facing down a cancer diagnosis for two years now.  That I've had the possibility of cancer and hysterectomy hanging over my head every day since December 2010.  That's a long time.  Have I had to go through chemo... no, but I've been on high power drugs that have caused me to think that I"m losing my mind for over 18 months.  I've had surgeries and horrilby painful tests that nobody should have to endure.  I've been told at nearly every appointment that I should just give it all up and have a hysterectomy because it would be "easier".  I get no sympathy from doctors and most of the people around me don't get it at all.  Every day I live with the possibility that the next biopsy will reveal cancer.  Hell, last May, my biopsy was inconclusive... there were precancerous cells definitely there, but there were others they thought were likely cancerous but couldn't be 100% certain.  So for nearly a year I've been fighting off another round of cancer/precancer - but doing it silently.  I haven't shared with work (other than my boss and even then I've been quite vague).  I haven't shared with many people who know me.  I've suffered rather silently, so apparently that makes me not tough.

I've struggled for the past four years with the idea that I will never have a child.  That the one thing that I want so desperately, I will never have.  That I will disappoint my husband and never make him a father.  I deal with that pain daily.  I watch others have babies, and many have babies and not care for them or parent properly, and I feel the pain.  I get asked nearly daily why I don't have kids, or if I'm going to have kids, and I smile and say "eventually", knowing it's probably a lie... and I feel that pain.

I have been the victim of physical assault.  I have been stalked.  I have nearly lost my eyesight. I spent my highschool years being physically and emotionally bullied so badly I attempted suicide.  For ten years I was walked closely as a brain aneurysm was threatening to develop.  I've had a broken bone for over a year and need surgery but our wait times are ridiculous so I'm still waiting in pain. And now I am dealing with cancer issues coupled with infertility.

But apparently if you haven't had full blown cancer and haven't told the world about it, you're not tough.  So, there you have it, I'm not tough... but I am bulletproof!

3 comments:

A Shadow of My Former Self

I've heard those cancer comparison discussions too. I can't help it but I always think, "oh really? Someone from the richest country in the world has cancer and is treated by the best medical professionals in the world is tougher than..." And then I insert any or all of the following: a child in the slums of India with no hope? Nelson Mandela locked away for decades, years of his life lost? Malala, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, received only because she's female and questions authority?

Yes, cancer is horrendous and the struggle hard, but it does not trump everything else out there. Human suffering and ultimately survival, is what makes people tough.

I don't think one thing should ever be used to measure and assess another person's pain or ability to withstand it.

A Shadow of My Former Self

I've heard those cancer comparison discussions too. I can't help it but I always think, "oh really? Someone from the richest country in the world has cancer and is treated by the best medical professionals in the world is tougher than..." And then I insert any or all of the following: a child in the slums of India with no hope? Nelson Mandela locked away for decades, years of his life lost? Malala, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, received only because she's female and questions authority?

Yes, cancer is horrendous and the struggle hard, but it does not trump everything else out there. Human suffering and ultimately survival, is what makes people tough.

I don't think one thing should ever be used to measure and assess another person's pain or ability to withstand it.

Jenny

I think that line of thinking - that cancer is the ultimate in suffering and surviving it is the ultimate triumph - is rather short-sighted and just gives you an indication of what sheltered lives your coworkers must have had. And I say this as someone whose mother AND husband are both cancer survivors.

This reminds me of the whole Pain Olympics bullshit, where suffering is given a grade. Maybe at some point, if you feel comfortable with sharing your story, you could help educate some of these people.

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