I was at the grocery story the other day and caught sight of an acquaintance I hadn't seen for over a year. I started to walk across the store to say hello, when I froze. I realized that she had no idea about my diagnosis, and I would have to decide whether or not to jump into that minefield when she asked how I have been over the past year.
So instead I walked the other way.
Meeting new people is sometimes a bit awkward for me now, since I never know if or when I should drop the "I have cancer" bomb. I still have my hair, so there is no tell-tale chemo sign. Overall, there is really no external way to tell that I have anything wrong.
Yet, lung cancer has become an important part of my identity. There is not a day that goes by where I do not think of it. I have become active in the lung cancer community, and I have made new friendships because of it. It has profoundly affected who I am and how I think about life. So, like it or not, it is part of me.
I am not ashamed of having cancer, and I am happy to talk about it with people, but the initial coming out is wrought with uncertainty. Will I get the "pity face?" Will I get the list of things I should/should not eat/drink/breathe etc.? Will I get the awful silence that follows the exchange, "What stage it is?" "Stage IV." ". . . . . . . . . . " (That really happened. I wanted to say something to make her feel less awkward, but I couldn't think of anything, so I just sat there as she squirmed.)
There must be other people who feel this way, people who have an important part of themselves that is a somewhat touchy subject. Perhaps this is how members of the LGBTQ community feel? Perhaps people who have experienced a life-changing event feel this? There is no external marker to show that something big is going on, but it is there, and it is important.
I'd love to hear from others who have felt this way, if you woud be so generous to share your thoughts. And if I'm way off base, tell me that too!
I used to say that I wanted to live a hundred lives in my lifetime. This upside of this cancer journey is that it is helping me to walk in other people's shoes and see with their eyes.
There is the yin in that yang.