Nowadays, it seems like there is hardly a person around who has not been touched by cancer in one way or another. Most who are affected by cancer will experience a less rare form of cancer than mine, medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). However, hearing the word that you or someone you love is afflicted with cancer, is never easy.
It may be due to this fact, that cancer seems to be more prevalent than ever. Mainstream media often seems filled with it, in TV shows, all over social media, and even movies cover a multitude of facets of the cancer journey.
Read about experimental therapies for MTC
Even before my diagnosis, I would often cry my eyes out while watching these types of movies. Since my diagnosis, I have avoided most movies that heavily deal with cancer. Let me give you an example. I used to love the movie “A Walk to Remember.” I simply loved the storyline, the characters, the music, and just the whole movie.
For those of you who may not know the movie, it follows two high school seniors who run in completely different circles but end up having to work together. This leads to, of course, a romantic interest in each other. The girl tries to fight and tells the guy to not fall for her. All of this she is doing because she has cancer which I believe if I remember correctly is a stage 4 form of blood cancer. They end up marrying soon after high school, but as their wedding is taking place, there is a narration that explains that she only lived for a short time longer until she succumbed to her cancer diagnosis.
Back before my diagnosis, this was a beautiful movie to me. Now, when I even think about it, I can’t help imagining myself and my husband being the ones to have to say goodbye to each other. Sure, we have been married longer than a few months (coming up on 11 years). But is it ever easy to leave your spouse behind?
I haven’t been able to watch it since before I was diagnosed with MTC.
Other times, when I don’t expect it, a TV show or movie I am watching will include a storyline about cancer. Some days, that is perfectly fine. On other days (especially those around scan or result days) my husband will often ask me if we need to turn off the TV or watch something else. Often, he will just catch me silently crying.
I don’t think there have been very many shows we did turn off. I usually just make it through it and deal with the emotional fallout later, most often before falling asleep. That sometimes takes shape in scrolling my phone for hours because my brain just won’t shut down the questions that always loom just under the surface. In other instances, it presents itself in big emotional outbursts, such as sobbing while my husband just holds me.
Social media is unpredictable in so many ways, including hearing about others’ cancer journeys. There are the usual friends and family who are supporting you through your own cancer path. Then there are friends, family, and acquaintances who share their own diagnoses on social media. I am grateful when they do, as this allows me to pay forward the kindness I received when I was first diagnosed.
But then there is also the not-so-pleasant part of social media. Maybe you have heard about the young woman from Iowa who faked her cancer diagnosis in order to raise money on GoFundMe. These kinds of posts are truly a slap in the face to many of us who are truthfully fighting this horrid disease. I count myself as one of the lucky ones living in Canada who have Universal Healthcare.
My cancer journey included some out-of-pocket costs (that friends and family helped with tremendously), but most of my treatments have been covered. It is vastly different for so many other patients. For me this scammer was quite triggering, I can only imagine how much more this would be true for someone who has spent thousands upon thousands in out-of-pocket for medical expenses.
My husband has learned to tune in when something is triggering for me. Sometimes he is even better at recognizing it than I am. I will just become quieter or withdrawn whereas he notices these changes right away and asks me about how what I am watching, reading, or hearing is affecting me.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked to a few friends and multiple stories about new and progressing cancer diagnoses came up. It was impressive to me, how quickly my husband picked up on the way it was triggering for me.
I am now almost 7 years out from diagnosis and almost 6 years away from my last treatment, yet this still has a major effect on me. Upon reflection, I can see how my preferences on what kind of media I expose myself to have drastically changed since 2016 (the year of my diagnosis). I am way more likely to choose to watch an action movie or TV show than something along the lines of Romcom or Drama. The groups and accounts I follow on social media have become mostly about motherhood and photography. I try to avoid the cancer boards, memes, and support groups.
Cancer truly affects every aspect of one’s life. Even the areas one would not think would change at all.