I’ve always been a stoic person -- dealing with pain or hardship and trying really hard to not show it to others (except Matt, my spouse, of course; he has to endure my bitching and complaining). I always figured everyone had problems: making a fuss about mine isn’t going to make mine better and sure is going to make things harder for everyone else.
When I had surgery for my heart defect (January 2015) I didn’t make a big deal about it. I told few people, was in and out of the hospital lickety-split, went back to work 13 days after I got out of the hospital and basically returned to the life I had before.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2015 (obviously, not a good year for me) I did the same thing: told only those who needed to know, started the chemo and endured the side effects with little complaint. When I go out to see people I do everything in my power to put on a happy face. There are whole groups of people who interact with me who don’t know I have cancer because I’m always so upbeat and optimistic. But cancer and chemo are exhausting; and, while things are better now (reduced chemo, etc.), it’s still a challenge.
I think because I present my “can do” attitude, they think my cancer is not bothering me. I was discussing this very issue with Matt just a few days ago. I think people are expecting more from me because they think “His cancer isn’t bothering him, so he can do this.” Well, it is bothering me and, increasingly, I can’t do it.
Now, of course, when I have to turn down things -- like lunch dates, extra work assignments, etc., which is bad enough -- I also have to explain that my cancer and chemo are the reasons why. I can just imagine people thinking “He’s lying. He’s always been fine with his cancer and chemo. It’s just an excuse.”
I’m not sure what to do: I don’t want to have to explain everything to everyone, I don’t want pity, and I don’t want people to stop inviting me to lunch because they’re afraid of exhausting me. I guess the best I can hope for is an understanding that I have good days and I have bad days. I like to laugh and carry on like everyone else and I certainly don’t want to be defined by my cancer.