It is okay to cry; I did a lot of that. It is okay to be mad; I did a lot of that. It is okay to just be in the moment; I did a lot of that. It is okay to just be you.
My name is Bryan W. I am from Birmingham, Al. I was diagnosed at the tender age of 25 years old with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I started treatment at the prestigious University of Alabama at Birmingham Cancer Center and was completely lost during the process. I was blessed to have a mother who was a nurse and a father who was a firefighter/ EMT who was able to pick up a lot of the slack for my “outer body trans” that started when I was in the hospital and I heard the words “ YOU HAVE CANCER”. I was lost; not knowing what tomorrow holds and adjusting to what my “new norm” would be during treatments.
I remember instantly that I wanted to mask my feelings and to be strong. I wanted to ensure that my parents, friends, confidants, and social media understood that I was “okay”. I did not want people to worry about me; I am a beast I did not need you to feel bad for me.
I remember sitting in my third treatment and my social worker “called me out” on my depression/lack of emotions and it opened my eyes. She educated me on what she was seeing and made me face the “Elephant in the room”, and the emotional toll that cancer was doing me to me. She took the mask off and I sat there and cried when I got home. I remember crying for multiple days; as the emotions had never been touched- just skipped over. I was always hiding from that conversation and WHEW-IT WAS NOT OKAY!
I instantly started to write down my feelings to attempt to deal with this and I am going to share them with you. This was during my 3rd treatment:
“Dear Cancer, you ruined my life. I finally had my life going in the right direction and you showed up. My life is completely over. This time a month ago I was diagnosed with stage 3b HL……. I still do not understand what’s going on. I don’t want to do this, but I have to. I don’t want to lose my hair (my head is not shaped right), but I have to. I don’t want to sit here for 6 hours a day and throw up all night, but I have to. I don’t want to see my parents worry and cry, but they have to. I wish I could ease everyone’s stress, but I can’t. I have to sit here and suffer and beat this. Forrest Whitaker once said ” you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon without a struggle”
After my 5th treatment, my Social Worker introduced me to Stupid Cancer, a young adult cancer organization that focused on the well beings of young adults with cancer and WHEW did that organization changed my life for the better. This organization introduced me to many people in the “cancer world” who helped me navigate my second half of treatment, introduced me to other organizations that provided mental and emotional support, and I was able to connect with people who looked like me.
I was then able to finally meet my demons head-on. This process was not easy or short, but I had to take the journey. This journey to becoming emotionally self-efficient took over three years post-treatment.
Remember- It is okay to cry; I did a lot of that. It is okay to be mad; I did a lot of that. It is okay to just be in the moment; I did a lot of that. It is okay to just be you.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.cdn-pi.com/contact/submissions/.