What Should A Lung Cancer Patient Look Like?
Recently I read my colleague Denise's post at LungCancer.net, The Struggle You Don't See. I was very moved as I survived lung cancer for six years. Like Denise, I had endured pain and suffering.
However, my struggle gave me the opposite reaction as Denise. I can't help to write down my thought. Here, I would like to share my opinion.
The struggle you can't see
As correctly pointed out by Denise, lung cancer patients' appearances of being "health and vitality" can be quite deceiving. After the treatment is over, the families and friends of the lung cancer patients assume that they are cured. "No more concessions need to be made. No further accommodations required."
Denise further explained the more profound scars lung cancer patients bored, such as overwhelm physical and emotional fatigue and constant pain and fear. At the end of the article, Denise wrote, "… don't treat me as if there was nothing wrong. If I want to talk about my fears, then acknowledge them and their validity."
Denise's article clearly and vividly described what lung cancer patients truly feel. It's her absolute honesty that moves me deeply.
My experience and invisible battles
Although I concur with Denise's article, I can't help asking what's wrong with having a conceived appearance, i.e., we look healthier and more energetic than we are, even if sometimes we have to pretend a little bit, what's wrong?
I became almost hemiplegic (my right arm and leg are almost paralyzed) because my lung cancer is metastasized to the brain. If it's not because I keep exercise, I don't think I could walk today. However, it's obvious I walk differently from others. All I'm thinking is I wish I could walk normally, so people are not turning their heads to look at me (although I like the handicapped parking each time I go to the gym.). I'm longing for normality, the same as other people.
Let's expand people's perceptions of cancer
I wrote the article The Phrase "I'm Fine" From Lung Cancer Patients at LungCancer.net in 2020. It mentioned that healthy people viewed our lung cancer patients differently as if we were different beings. I acknowledged physical differences and suggested that we lived with them, although I still wish I looked normal.
My friends used to think I constantly looked in pain, staying in bed 24-7, lost weight like a skeleton, losing hair, coughing to the point that I can't breathe, and wearing oxygen. From the day I found healthy people have so many wrong perceptions about lung cancer patients, I decided to open up and welcomed them to see by their own eyes what lung cancer patients look like.
I remembered that some of my friends carefully exam me without letting me know, but I could tell they were "scanning" me. Some of my friends were more straightforward asking me about my cancer experience. I was always honest with them, telling them the painful, the bad, and the ugly side of lung cancer. At the same time, I also told them about what I have learned from my cancer experience and the new development of (lung) cancer research. I think I made a difference in how people around me viewed lung cancer patients. In my recent conversation, my friend said to me, surprised, "you look good, you laugh a lot..."
What do lung cancer patients look like?
Have I experienced pain in lung cancer? The answer is yes! I experienced excruciate pain both physically and mentally. I'm not shy to reveal the pain through the articles posted on LungCancer.net, and I don't mind speaking publicly and privately. I have done so. I think this painful experience of lung cancer makes me what I am today.
There are not unique answers to the above question. Denise and I are on two extremes, and many others may be in between. Every answer is valid, and there isn't a mode for everybody. In my view, what we feel is more important than what we look like. Besides, I think speaking up about our experience, just like Denise and I, is a healthy way to handle cancer.
What do you resonate with most, when it comes to advocating for lung cancer?