Thursday, September 28, 2017

Even Superwoman Needs to Feel all the Feels

Today actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

As a woman just over four years out from my own diagnosis day, I am filled with only empathy, love and light for Ms. Louis-Dreyfus. I don’t know her or her work (yes, I am one of perhaps four people on the planet that has not seen an episode of Seinfeld) but I know she has just joined a community that she never wanted to join and therefore only partially understands and may not even know exists. She is likely in that whirlwind time where everyone is trying to figure out up from down.

Cancer is sneaky bastard and all-consuming in that way.

I respect and applaud her openness with going public with her diagnosis. With one tweet she educated thousands, if not more on a single stark reality of breast cancer – it affects one in every eight women.

Sharing your story to educate others is a powerful too and being vulnerable to the world with your private reality is well… a vulnerable kinda place. I’ll leave my gratitude here for her and for all of those that lend their voices in an attempt change the cancer narrative.

As one would expect, messages of hope & strength permeated the tweets aimed at or in support of Ms. Louis-Dreyfus (what is WITH my formality today?!?! Julia, I’m calling her Julia) but one tweet caught me in particular.

And so my fingers typed what was in my heart and mind.

Cancer sucks. We all have choices on how we walk, run, dance, roll through the days of diagnostic testing to determine and begin a treatment plan. There is no “right way” to do cancer. And any way is hardwork. As someone who grabbed onto the cancer arse-kicker personality, I also know that maintaining that front can be challenging. Dealing with your own fear, managing the fear of others around you and trying desperately to ‘win’ is exhausting.

Balancing work, family, friends and personal sanity through life in general is hard. Really hard. Balancing all that in addition to facing your own mortality can, some days, feel like an exercise in existential Tiddlywinks.

Four years ago I fed off of positivity. And yet I had, and still have, those days. On those days, especially after all of the well-meaning but pressure-filled “You’ve got this girl” messages, it is hard to show and share your fear. And some days those messages feel impossible to live up to.

To put it bluntly, cancer is a mindf*!k.

Some days you feel like a cancer patient, other days you feel like a rock star. Some days you do feel like you’ve ‘got this’ and other days ‘this’ absolutely and unequivocally has you.

In my opinion, the absolute, without-a-doubt best ever support you can provide anyone going through a serious illness is to allow them to feel all the feels. Allow them to share their desperation with you. It can be hard to listen to. It can be hard not to try and make yourself feel better by blowing verbal perfume up their ass.

But you don’t have to have the words. You just have to have the space. You, as a supporter, need to sit with your own uncomfortability sometimes. Just listen. And then, when the time comes tell me what you know I need to hear - that you heard me, that you listened.

Tell me you’re proud of me. Ask me what I hope for. Ask me what I’m afraid of. Ask me what I think I need – and be fully prepared for me to have no flipping idea.

Love, light and glittery unicorn flatulence is awesome. But all of us need those souls in our lives that can suspend their own fears and anxiety to just listen, to just sit, to just validate fears, anger, confusion and fatigue. Can you be that person to someone else?

I sure hope so because even Superwomen wants and needs to be seen, heard and held.