I Am Not Cancer

July 27, 2011
People tell me, “You’re an amazing person,” not out of respect, but because they think I need the compliment, because I have cancer. They say, “You are so strong,” while they avert their gaze from my shriveled body, lying beneath the crisp, white hospital sheets. They say these things and they don’t even know why, only that it’s ‘expected’ of them, not by me, but by society.

I am amazing. I am strong. But not because of my illness.

True, cancer made me fight harder for every breath, and made every moment without pain a blessing, but I was strong before cancer, and I will be strong long after cancer has departed from me.

Everyone talks to me like I am cancer. Like I’m only a host for the disease within me. But I say, that I am more than sick. I am me. I have a personality and a life, beyond these hospice rooms. I am more than the toxins of cancer, and more than the artificial poison they flood me with everyday.

I am a person, not a disease, so judge me as such. Don’t look for the part of me that is dying, but instead notice the joy I have for living. See my talent for weaving stories, and for lightening the mood with a perfectly aimed joke, or a snarky witty bit of sarcasm. Look at my passion for drawing. Every piece of my art shows another part of me, another depth and insight into who I am. I am not just some girl you can visit in the hospital for thirty minutes, to rack up volunteer hours, walk away from, and write off as another cancer victim. No, I am too good for that.

Stop looking at me like I am an invalid! I am not a weakling. I am a soldier. The only difference I have from any other warrior, is my foe is trying to conquer me from the inside out, instead of on a battle field. I cannot win this fight alone. Just like any other soldier, I need my rifle men, and my fighter pilots. I need your support, not your pity.

Help me to grow and live, not to stunt or die. Cancer is already doing that, and it doesn’t need anymore encouragement, but I do. Instead of patronizing me, talk to me, not as a patient or a dying girl, but as a friend. I don’t need your diagnoses. I already have enough doctors making those. I need your ability to talk to me like any other human being. I accept that I am neither normal, nor average. I am special, but not because I have cancer.

Treat me as you would anyone else. Don’t work extra hard to make me smile or to get a laugh out of me, or if you do, simply do it because we are friends, not because you feel like you have to. I will smile when I want to, and I will laugh when the joke is funny.

You shouldn’t feel awkward, or like I’m any different than I was before. Cancer didn’t change me, only how my body functions. My opinions and my character haven’t altered. Cancer does not make me who I am. Don’t treat me like I’m already dead, because I’m not, and I intend to stay that way. Remember me, not my disease.

For beneath the purple bruised eyelids and ghostly pale skin, I am your friend, the neighbor girl, and the daughter. Behind the gaunt and shrunken exterior, I am the sarcastic and very strange child who made you laugh. Beyond the IVs and chemo therapy, I am me. I am still Amelia. I am not cancer.

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This article has 24 comments. Post your own now!

CarrieAnn13 said...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm
I remember reading this in the forums!  It's even better than before; I can imagine a lot of cancer patients would like this.  Excellent work!
shadowrider replied...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm
lucygirl26 said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm
Very well written. It makes a good point, and I have a very close friend who is like an aunt to me who had breast cancer so this means a lot to me. I really like the fact that you write as if you had cancer, but in reality you don't. That shows that you are a true writer who can really imagine what it's like to be put in someone else's shoes. Hope that helped! Keep writing! Also, would you mind reading my short story Stopping on the Tracks? I would appreciate any comments, good or bad, th... (more »)
shadowrider replied...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm
Thank you so much for the feedback, and I will try to read your article!
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