The Myth of "stay strong" and my rant on the subject :D

I'd heard endless stuff about strength, resiliance, attitude etc. And it drives me up the wall. As though Attitude and diet can do more than Chemo or surgery. I realise this link is about stigmatising mental illness, but it wasn't much of a stretch to extrapolate it to my experience of cancer. From health-care workers but also from family and neighbours. Funnily enough not from my friends, perhaps they are a small bunch of weird people like me.

I'd been going through the McM booklet full of 'survivor' stories, about 'moving on' after cancer. It was full of those who 'weren't going to be 'beaten', or that their experience had made them better versions of themselves, 'stronger', who could now stride forwards head up into the future etc. It all reminded me of the Leninist workers art without the carrying of a hammer or sickle (see below). It felt like there was an obvious sub-text, that the 'right' attitude is something to attain asap if you haven't already got it. And it bugged me.

Bugged me enough that here I am pontificating as though I know anything, which I don't! It made ask myself where do I fit in? Does that make me a loser? Am I not made of the 'right' stuff'? As if having cancer wasn't bad enough, I need to conform to these attitudes to be 'worthy' of or able to, move on? I hope that I am not alone in struggling to bear the brunt of the the "Gee aren't I wonderful" psychological stance, (Ok, RD Lang was a while ago, but it feels like it fits well here) with society cheering on from the sidelines as though it were a sports day. That god forbid If you 'fail' to conform to their advice you may end up like me. It left me feeling marginalised, as clearly I am not of the right(eous) stuff, I am not strong and I don't feel able to attain the nirvana displayed in the booklet, clearly showing me what happens for those who were of the right stuff, or would be soon, if they read the booklet over again and conformed.

Imagine my surprise to find I am not alone thinking this attitude may have some problems, maybe I'm not 'weak', I just am. The link below suggested to me I was not failing to be strong, that was a familar repeated and just a not thought through, imperative. Maybe if I was stronger and read more 'survivor stories' it wouldn't change a thing in my life. I can't be more like the happy McM booklet people by reading it, I can't become the right stuff by wishing it. Maybe I will never be like them? The link gave me ideas that perhaps people who want you to be strong are just flailing about trying to think what to say. Perhaps they are not the ones in possesion of a truth and if you don't fit in it makes no difference?

Perhaps a small corner could be left where I, as someone who doesn't want to echo the I'm going to 'beat' this brigade can be? Where I, as some one who feels marginalised, can exist? Maybe that's here? Perhaps being 'weak' or 'strong' has nothing to do with it, perhaps that's just a Myth?

  • Really interesting. I too have wondered why cancer in particular seems to be an illness to be "beaten" or "battled" That said I guess that we all deal with it in the way that suits us best and if for some the "battle" analogy works then that can only be a good thing. For me I find that seeing it as a journey or series of steps works best. Diagnosis / operation / chemotherapy / recovery. I certainly don't see myself as strong or weak - rather just "muddling through" and getting by. 

  • Finally someone who's not "battling" cancer!

    Your post is spot on for me Tlania.  I'm exhausted by comments re my fighting spirit, positive attitude.  I try and explain I'm neither battling it or being positive but they smile and carry on or walk away.

    My cancer just is there or maybe it's not anymore and the immunotherapy is going into a dark void(plus giving me arthritis), I really don't know.   

    All my life I've rarely felt I fitted in-- legacy of an abusive mother and that's another story-- so having cancer just sticks me further out there.  I absolutely refuse to "be positive" or "fight it" and if people feel awkward speaking to me so be it. My cancer, my life, my right to deal with it how I want.

    I do believe that the majority of us do find the idea of a person accepting their cancer and it's outcome extremely difficult to deal with.  It's almost viewed as morally wrong to not "battle the bastard cancer"   Our awkwardness talking about death and dying is where this originates.  Plus most of us can't imagine a person who doesn't want to prolong their life as much as possible.  I accept dath as a very natural state, we are all finite.  I've no wish to die yet, my daughter is only 21.  But it's out of my hands.  I would never belittle anyone's else's choice of how they deal with cancr, a cancer killing diet, vitamins, spiritual healing, it's up to you. Whatever gets you throught it. Hearts

  • It is really cheering to not be the only one! Thank-you. I also have a past, perhaps that affects how you deal with stuff, IDK. If that is the case I think there must be many who feel like this but they keep schtum and don't rock the boat. Or maybe past trauma teaches you silence is not always your friend and rocking the boat can be a good thing Smiley
    I too think whatever anyone needs for themselves is what's right for them and they are best placed to know. Stereotypes are not people and onesize does not fit all

  • Totally agree, lumpectomy  18years ago mastectomy 8 weeks ago, if one more person tells me I fought it the first time I can do it again.think I'll explode ,I have no weapons to "fight "it  I just have to plod on, it'd the stuff going round in my head that I need to get rid of..

  • You are definitely not the only one, it is a subject which regulalry crops up in different parts of the forum. Those of us on the incurables forum have definitely talked about it regularly, Each to their own - some people need to feel they are fighting a battle with a chance of winning. Others of us know we are not battling, just living, with help from the doctors, nurses and drugs. Plenty of us hate the positive psychology b******s which is prevalent in many areas including mental health circles.

    The role of luck and pure chance is often ignored by people - good things happen to bad people, and bad things to good people - life is random and there is much we have no control over. That is not a counsel of despair, we have some control over some things, but we delude ourselves a lot of the time in our comfortable bubbles of existence.

    Keep on ranting, you speak for many.

  • Keep plodding on and when you can't take 'duvet days' <3

  • Exactly, I totally agree. I'm glad that it's a regular thing that comes up, and sad it still needs to. But knowing that is helpful for me, thank-you I'm very grateful <3