According to an article in the Seattle Times, over 600,000 Americans will die of cancer this year. That’s an enormous number. The article was primarily about the fact that celebrities and other people often times do not disclose what type of cancer they had.
I have colon cancer. It is not the easiest cancer to talk about, because it really does involve some private parts. When I first discovered that I have this disease, I really had to think about how I would handle it. Would I tell people that I was sick? Would I tell people that I had cancer? Would I tell people what type of cancer I had? Anything less than full disclosure feels very inauthentic to me. I’m probably a bad example because I’m not the most private person. And I know that some people deeply value their privacy.
I don’t think it’s wrong to value privacy. But I think it is important to consider what kind of impact and influence you might have if you talk about your cancer openly. I am so proud of the people who have led the public relations phenomenon that is breast cancer awareness. It is totally OK to talk about breast cancer now. I don’t know if that makes it any easier to have breast cancer, but it certainly is easier to say out loud in a crowded restaurant that you have it. Colon cancer has not been afforded the same hospitality. YET. And don’t even get me started about poor rectal cancer.
I felt it was important for me to be open about my cancer for many reasons.
One – I’m not ashamed. It’s not my fault and I have no reason to feel embarrassed.
Two – I have needed a lot of help. I’m independent to a fault but both motherhood and cancer have taught me that it takes a village.
Three – by being open, I’ve made it more ok for others to talk about it. To talk about their own cancer scares or actual cancer. That’s a gift I can give to others. Let’s make it ok to talk about our cancer! Let’s not be afraid of what people will think! I often hear “I’m afraid people will see me as weak.” That’s bullshit. No one thinks that. They think you’re brave. Brave.
Four – I’m spreading awareness. Young people die from colon cancer because they never dream they could have cancer so young. So they don’t get symptoms checked out. Check your butt, people.
I’m not embarrassed. You can be if you want. But I’d like to see colon cancer have the same dignity and grace and acceptance that Breast cancer does. And I’d like to see people of influence do their part to move awareness forward. Imagine how much awareness and courage Alan Rickman and David Bowie could have inspired. I don’t know what kind of cancer they had, but I wish they had blessed the cancer community with their influence instead of fading away quietly.
To be fair, celebrities live their lives in front of us. And we can all fight illness and even die how we’d like. I just think if you’re already a star, use the last bits of your power to leave things a little brighter in honor of those who are beating the drum loudly but don’t have that platform sitting right there waiting for them to step up to.