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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Positrons


"My most recent one is 'you are a failure on your fight against breast cancer without a positive and upbeat attitude.' You need to grieve, cry, and take to your bed a lot during treatment and for many times after. Your mind cannot will cancer away."
- Jo, breast cancerada

Oh yes. Oh yes. The old positivity trap.  There's so much subtle, and not so subtle, patient blaming in there. The idea that negative emotions build up in your body and make you sick -- somehow that notion survives still. Yeesh.

I think part of the problem is that a lot of people confuse "staying positive" with "getting the fuck on with it." Before I had any personal experience with cancer, I didn't think it was something I'd ever be able to handle, that I'd just cry and wail for months on end, or something. Shockingly, that's actually impossible. The cancer stuff becomes normal really quickly, and you cope with it with the tools you have. If you like to cope with a smile on your face, then do that. You might prefer crying into your dog's fur. Or you might like to listen to Rammstein and smash things. That's equally valid. For many of us, it's all of those things (though you may choose Megadeath).

I'm certainly not saying be negative. That sounds exhausting. But it's not fair for cancer patients to be harangued anytime we express fear or anger or sadness. This shit is hard! And it's not our job to make non-cancers feel okay about it.

Beyond just not telling people that they have to be positive, I think it's important not to tell people how to feel, period. So let's all agree to stop, mmmkay?

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