Cancer sucks. It hits you like a curve ball from left field. It leaves you lonely with no regard or remorse for the life you were trying to obtain. When you get hit with that curve ball, the question becomes, "So now what?" All I know is what I did: I scrambled to find a doctor, jumped into chemotherapy and did what most cancer patients do, I fought. I won the first battle when I was 18, in 2008. I was re-diagnosed in 2010 and won another battle after an autologous transplant, until 2012 when I relapsed again. So far I have prevailed a third time after a MUD bone marrow transplant last October. But all I could think about through all this was, "Why me!?"
I hate when people say, "Ben, if anybody can do this, it's you. You are the strongest person I know." I'm sorry. That's "bullshit"! First of all, I don't want to do this, and second of all, I don't have a choice. I usually just nod my head in agreement, appreciating their efforts of trying to console me. This type of "encouragement" has me asking myself "Why me?" When people think they understand what I am going through, it puts me into "why me?" thinking. The truth is I don't think anybody can understand what a cancer survivor is going through because everybody's experience is different. If someone tells me "they understand" I feel self-pity because I know they don't. As a survivor, I may have more perspective, but I definitely do not know what someone else's experience is like.
When I was first diagnosed, the only thought that ran through my mind was how unfair this whole situation was. But, I soon realized that it wasn't helpful to think this way. My mind was going in circles. I was stressed and emotionally upset. I started to get depressed. My family and loved ones were feeling as bad for me as I was feeling for myself, which made me feel even worse. The negativity that I felt I was causing was not going to help me battle cancer, it was only going to make it harder. I decided that there was a better question for me to ask myself and that is, "Why not me?" This mindset of "why not me?", helped my spirit as well as the conversations I would have with my loved ones. The question focused me and helped me to decide to face what was happening to me rather than feel sorry for myself. It made me feel better because there was less negativity in and around me and I felt that I was creating a more positive atmosphere for something that was scary for a lot of people, myself included. It made it easier for me try and deal with all of the crap that cancer was throwing my way.
No doubt about it, cancer is boring. I couldn't go to school, couldn't play sports, and I slept a lot. When I was first diagnosed, I started a non-profit organization, which was another way for me to get out of the mindset of "Why me?" I needed to just do something. I thought if I can inspire other people I won't feel so bad for myself. This distraction was a helpful tool for me and overall made me feel better about fighting this disease.
In no way am I accepting cancer as something that "just happens," so "go with it" as if it doesn't matter. Of course it's unfair and I totally understand why people say "Why me?" -- in fact, it is much easier to do that than say "Why not me?" I have "Why me?" thoughts often, but the difference now is that I choose not to blow on those embers. I'm suggesting that if people in their fight with cancer choose not to go there, that area of feeling bad for yourself, it might be possible to feel better. For me, that was the solution; relationally, for my community and for my spirits.
Let's decide to name "why not me?" as another possibility to fighting this crappy disease. Ask a different question if the one you're asking is not helpful. Whatever gives us more hope? That, in my opinion, is a better question to ask.
This blog is part of Generation Why, HuffPost's new spotlight on young adult cancer. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in contributing a blog.
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