I Don't Want To Be Defined By My Breast Cancer


I have found that many times a person who does not want to share their breast cancer diagnosis may have a variety of reasons for feeling this way. It may be that he/she is a very private person and doesn’t want others to know about it.

It may be because the person does not want to deal with the actions and/or reactions of the people that they know. After all, it is more than enough to deal with your own emotions at a time like this without having to deal with others.

Still others may feel they will be treated differently by friends and work colleagues if they make their diagnosis known. Others, with high powered jobs, may be concerned that going public with their diagnosis might hurt career advancement.

The reasons go on and on but the one that most often is spoken is that a person does not want to be defined by their breast cancer.

I can understand that you don’t want to have people look at you differently because you had or have breast cancer. It is tough enough to deal with breast cancer without being treated like you have a communicable disease. You don’t want to have others think that you can no longer do your job because your brain can no longer function properly because of chemo brain or that you can’t pick up a box or take care of yourself alone. You don’t want others to look at you differently because you have some scars that may be visible if you dress in what was your signature look before surgery.

Some,  even a spouse or partner may have difficulty dealing with your physical changes initially.

 Breast cancer does change a person, not only during the time of treatment and recovery but for the rest of your life. With some people, they are able to adjust and truly they don’t care what others think.

They are satisfied with having a mastectomy and not having reconstruction and presenting themselves to the world as is.

Others, do everything to restore themselves to look as close as they did before breast cancer, or for some, better than before. But, while they may feel better about their physical appearance, they still have to deal with how they feel about having had breast cancer and how it has changed them.

Many women are afraid that, going forward, their breast cancer experience will define them in the eyes of others, when the only person who is defining themselves this way is the person with breast cancer.

From my point of view, this is a phrase that has absolutely no meaning. Breast cancer can no more define a person than any other disease. We are not defined by what we have but rather by what we do. For instance, some one may have a fancy car and a big home but that only defines what she owns and not how she came to possess those things. What defines her is how she behaves and how she treat others.

What defines her is whether she shares what she has or hoards everything that comes her way. What defines a person will never be what they have been able to amass but rather how they have lived their life and how they have treated other people. What defines a person is their very essence and not what they wear, how they keep up their home or any other outward judgment.

So the next time that someone makes a choice about how they deal with their cancer and tries to explain it by saying that it was based upon their not wanting to be defined by their breast cancer, perhaps you can look a little deeper and understand that this is really a cover up for what is really going on inside the person. It you can, try to be patient with them until such time as they are able to be honest with themselves and subsequently with you in dealing with the underlying cause for sweeping everything under the “I Don’t Want to be Defined by My Breast Cancer” carpet. I know what they are doing because I did the same thing.

Edited by: Jean Campbell

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