Dear travel buddy!
How is the summer treating you so far? If you are able to go outside, please protect your skin. In addition, for those undergoing active cancer treatments, please explore with your cancer provider if these could increase your skin sensitivity. On the other hand, if you are watching the summer pass by from the side of the pool, or even inside, then please know you are not alone! I am sure there are many other persons, including myself!, who prefer or are in need (for e.g. physical reasons) to stay on the side-line, which may result in feeling like an outsider.
But what are we trying to “fit into”, really? And who defines or decides who does or does not fit? This makes me think of Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling story about a swan’s egg that ended up in a duck’s nest! Other ducks gave the “ugly duckling” a hard time, because he appeared and behaved differently. But when the ugly duckling encountered other swans, his perspective changed. His self-image and confidence improved for the better: he wasn’t ugly after all! The humbling experience also led to a silver-lining insight:
He felt quite glad that he had come through so much trouble and misfortune, for now he had a fuller understanding of his own good fortune, and of beauty when he met with it. [Source].
For me the morale of the story is that trying to ‘fit in’ may not be the best approach, because it has a moving target of which the standards are driven by the constantly changing societal norms and pressures. Furthermore, striving to fit in may force us to portray ourselves differently to the outer world than we feel on the inside. This facade may result in us losing touch with our inner values and principles, and drain our soul.
This is valid for every person, but perhaps more so for cancer survivors who may not always be able to conform to society’s expectations. Their bodies may have been disfigured. Dysfunction or disability may interfere with one’s ability to climb the career ladder. Cancer treatment related infertility or financial difficulties may ruin one’s ability to create the picture-perfect life.
Instead, pursuing acceptance and belonging may be a healthier approach, although it still requires effort (as does every meaningful relationship!). But this pursuit may be easier to sustain, because it is ideally based on authenticity and thus may allow you to remain more true to yourself. But determining where you belong starts with you finding the “new you” and accepting this “new you” in the post-treatment phase!
Life is a journey….enjoy your personal rediscovery, frank conversations with your loved ones about your (likely altered) abilities/needs/wants, and the expansion of your social circle with more people who ‘like you just the way you are‘! [sorry – I could not help myself as a Pittsburgher].
Together we stand strong! Please find below a few things for education and entertainment!
Learn and Think:
- More evidence towards our understanding that there is not a single magical nutrient that can help improve health and reduce the risk of early death‘. More complex research is needed. Until then, we should try to get our vitamins from diet (unless supplements/vitamins are specifically prescribed by your provider) and pursue a diet with moderation and variety!
Live and Feel:
- Joel Sartore, a National Geographic Photographer, has set out on a mission to ‘mark his time’. He founded the Photo Ark, a groundbreaking effort to document species before they disappear. He is also a great teller of stories, including this one about his wife’s cancer journey.
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