About a year and a half ago, the summer of 2016, my dad went to the doctor because his tailbone was hurting, and came out with a cancer diagnosis. It’s a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma, and it works by sucking all the calcium from your bones into your bloodstream, thus making your bones very weak (which is why his tailbone was hurting). He went through multiple rounds of chemo, and finally finished last February. After the chemo, his numbers continued to look good and he was as close to cancer free as he could get. Unfortunately, this was short lived. A couple weeks ago, his shoulder started bothering him; it felt like we had been through this before. He went to doctor, and came out with a torn rotator cuff diagnosis. Not only that, but the cancer has returned. Last week he started chemo again, which he will continue until summer. Directly after that, he will undergo surgery to repair his rotator cuff, which has a 4 to 6 month recovery time. And directly after that, he will undergo a stem cell transplant to battle the cancer, which has a 2 to 6 week recovery time. The Girls Who Handle It project came at just the right time, because this is the peak of my hardship so far.
I am a fairly private person, and I am one of those people who doesn’t like to bother other people with my problems. Because of this, I have kept most of the details of my dad’s struggle to myself. When he was first diagnosed, I told a select few of my closest friends, because I knew I couldn’t keep it a secret forever. They were so kind and supportive, as I knew they would be. I am not very close with my parents, so it was difficult to talk to them about it. The person who has helped me through this the most is my boyfriend. He has had similar situations in his family, so it was easier for me to relate to him and I felt like he understood what I was going through. So far, he is the only person I have confided in about my dad’s current situation. Initially, I did not want to tell anyone. Then I realized that I couldn’t handle it by myself, no matter how strong I thought I was. I think the most important part of “handling it” is knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.
Since I barely even told any of my friends, I definitely did not want to share this on social media. For starters, I didn’t really feel like it was my story to share. It does affect me greatly, but ultimately it is my dad’s journey and his story to tell if he wants. In addition, I did not want to receive pity from my friends, and especially my social media “friends”. I am connected with many people on social media who are not really my friends at all, and I am very uncomfortable with the thought of them knowing something so intimate and personal about my life. We live in a society where the accepted norm of social media is to show off the glamorous aspects of our life. Social media is a way for us to portray ourselves how we want other people to perceive us. And when we do want to share something not so glamorous, there are specific places to do so. There are separate accounts and platforms dedicated to sharing stories of illnesses or hardships, but the main accounts stay the same.
If I were to share this on social media, it would probably be something relating to the end of my dad’s chemotherapy treatment. This would be an effort to share my experience in a slightly more positive light, which I feel pressured to do because of the accepted norms. However, if I’m being honest, I don’t think I will ever be comfortable sharing this experience on social media. I wouldn’t want people to start to think of me as “the girl whose dad has cancer” and I wouldn’t want people to treat me any differently.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone going through a similar experience, or any hardship for that matter, is to ASK FOR HELP. Someone once told me they never ask for help because it’s a sign of weakness, however I think it’s the exact opposite. It takes real courage and strength to be able to admit that you need help, and even more courage and strength to actually ask for it. NEVER be ashamed to ask someone for help, whether it be a friend, family member, or just an acquaintance. I guarantee 100% of the time they will be more than willing to lend a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen, all you have to do is ask.