I'm Not Sad by Deana Ruston

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image by Geoffrey Fairchild via a Creative Commons license

{A note from Beth: from May through August 2015, I am featuring some delicious guest writers here on the blog as I recover from pregnancy and birth and adjust to our new family rhythms (find more details here).  Enjoy!}

On December 27th, 2014 I was diagnosed with Stage IIB thyroid cancer. It had also spread to my lymph nodes- but I felt fine before. Didn’t have a clue, rhyme or reason to think it would happen to me. It was found through a spine MRI as I have scoliosis- so it was a shock to say the least. 

In February, I had my surgery and everything is now back to normal. I’m me -- how I was before all this happened. 

There’s no doubt that with this news and experiences I’d faced -- I’m encountering a multitude of emotions. Happy, sad, angry, frustrated. No one wants to be told they have cancer- that’s crazy! I never thought at 22 it would be me! So through this time I’ve been riding the waves that each experience and trial brought me, not one by one but sometimes many at once would come crashing down.

There’s one thing though. Maybe it’s part of our human instinct -- I don’t know. But maybe it’s because we’re trying to comfort one another, maybe we’re pushing our feelings onto the person who just got diagnosed when we really don’t know what to say. . .   No idea.

People have been assuming that I’m sad. 

I guess people think, oh she got cancer . . . she’s sad. 

I was at a visitation following the death of a distant family member a few days after diagnosis, and another family member had heard the news. She started off saying, “oh you must not be very good.” I was completely caught off guard; no hello, she just assumed how I felt. I wasn’t happy -- not with her, I mean. I was totally fine before she said anything. But her assuming how I felt?  Hmmmm, no, not okay. I mustered up a, "I'm actually doing pretty well, thanks." And carried on. 

From this cancer experience I’ve learned so much. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For real. I’m not sad I got cancer. It’s made me a stronger, better person. I’ve always been a fighter, why back down now. Everyone has their own troubles, stories and struggles. We all get through them. At first I thought it was strange I wasn’t sad. To be honest, I thought it was almost wrong. Everyone else was sad. Why wasn’t I? I study grief counseling so I know everyone’s experience is going to be different. I had to remind myself of that. I know grief doesn’t come with step by step instructions -- who am I kidding? 

This isn’t all bad. So much good can come from it. When others try and define our feelings for us, they try to place us in the box or their template. That doesn’t work for me and probably doesn’t work for you either. Our lives are all individualized and unique. No persons story is the same as another. 
That’s the amazing thing.

Don’t let someone else define how you feel. It’s okay to feel how you do. Everyone’s experience is different. That’s okay. And we could even learn a little something from one another. 

Next time you talk to someone, ask them how they are, let them tell the story.



Deana Ruston, a 23 year old from London, Ontario, Canada (about 2 hours from Toronto), studies grief and bereavement counselling at King's University College at Western University. She has an interest in pregnancy and infant loss, loves to bake, cook and volunteer. Born at 25 weeks gestation, she identifies as a fighter. She won't back down. 

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