Sometimes it was just nice to admit things were bad and say that I was struggling, that maybe it was getting the better of me – for a moment.
I had cancer. But, I wasn’t ready for it. Can you be ready for cancer, can someone defy the diagnosis and make the best out of their battle against the disease?
At 16 years-old I was unaware of the fight that was happening in my subconscious. On the one hand, I was facing a disease long before I was meant to – ‘why me, why cancer, why now’, I often thought. And, as I contemplated how my life had changed in the matter of a few words, “it’s cancer”, would this disease now define my life? Was I now forever to be labelled as the guy who had cancer?
Not Jack, a mate, a son or a brother; just a patient, sufferer, survivor.
But, my dealings did not end with cancer. In fact, I still deal with the implications today.
Perhaps it’s only as I look back that I appreciate why people were surprised at how I was dealing with the disease. 3 years on and I realise that whilst my battle started with a disease, it was underpinned by a stigma. And, although I was relatively open throughout my time with cancer, as a man, was I supposed to be?
At the time, it was relatively easy to think about my position but near impossible to articulate it. Saying the words “I have cancer” would claw onto the end of my tongue like a child leaving home on the first day of school. Much like that situation, it would ultimately end in tears.
Those tears were good. Cancer redefined crying for me. When it all got too much, let it out. I think, as a guy it can often be seen as weakness, but what’s weak about the truth? Letting down the prosthetic masculine guard and saying ‘I’m not okay’.
Cancer can take a lot from a person. But, my short time with the disease showed me that it can’t define my life. It can’t take away my name, or who I am.
Cancer may have changed perspectives, but it can’t change how I act as a person – or as a man.