Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Note on Cancer

I will talk more in depth later about my experience with cancer as it pertains to my journey in film, but right now I just have some general thoughts I'd like to share.

A lot of people I know (possibly everyone I know) has had some sort of experience with cancer.  Be it a distant relative, a close relative, a friend, a friend's relative, or one's self.  And a lot of that is going on right now, for myself, my family, and some of my friends, which has gotten me thinking.

Cancer can be several things, and different things to different people.  It can represent a challenge, an obstacle, a milestone, an inspiration, a unifier, a new beginning, an ending, or many other things, and many of them at the same time.  But regardless of what it is, it is an experience that changes everyone who endures it.

I would like to pretend that I was courageous and optimistic during and after my ordeal- that I rose to the challenge, beat the obstacle, and began anew as a better person.  But the reality is that I was none of those things.  It may have appeared that way because I had the uncanny ability to emotionally detach myself from my situation and convince myself that it wasn't affecting me negatively, and being a hyper-rational person, I could justify my position to myself (or anyone else) and ignore data that would suggest otherwise.  I was fine.  I didn't need help, I didn't need encouragement, I didn't need hope, or support groups, or counseling.  Because I was going to beat it and then move on with my life, and it was as simple as that.

But an inescapable truth is that no matter what you convince yourself of, and no matter what cancer represents to you, or who you know that's going through it, it is a traumatic experience.  It's traumatic on your body, it's traumatic on your mind, and it's traumatic on your emotional self, no matter how far down you've crammed it (and I might argue that the deeper you suppress your emotional self, the more it is affected by trauma).  Especially if there is loss involved in your experience.  How you deal with that trauma and that loss will affect you for the rest of your life.

I first started my treatments for cancer six years ago, and completed them roughly five months later.  A casual observer would say I handled the experience very well.  And for a long time, I believed I did.  But as time progressed, I very slowly devolved into a depressed, hopeless individual, idling through life and angry at the universe without even knowing why. 

About a year ago, I explored the possibility that it might be related to my cancer, and I eventually discovered that I did experience a loss during that ordeal.  A great, traumatic loss, that I never admitted to myself.  What I lost was something I considered a great personal strength and asset, and was such a defining part of my identity that I was unable to cope with that loss, to the point where I refused to recognize it ever even happening.  But recognize or no, it happened.  And the longer I ignored it, the more it ate at me, and the deeper I sank.

The moral of this story is this: all of you who are experiencing this ordeal in some form or another, whether you admit it to yourself or not, and whether you recognize it or not, you are experiencing a traumatic event.  You do not have the power of choice over this.  The simple fact that you are human has taken that choice away from you.  So the best possible thing for you to do is accept that this is traumatic and seek appropriate counseling.  Here's the catch: YOU CANNOT COUNSEL YOURSELF. 

Do not be afraid to be human.  Do not be afraid to be afraid.  Find a therapist.  Go to support groups.  Cry.  Hug a family member.  Hug a stranger.  Do yoga.  Say and do cheesy, foolish, and/or seemingly pointless things, recognize your need to do them, and be ok with it.  Do all these things I wish I had done six years ago.  Not because they're good for you, but because believe it or not, you need to.

1 comment:

  1. I worked with Scott while he was going through cancer treatment. He was an actor on a film called Troubadours. He did an amazing job. He fought back and won, and even later became a Continuum Pictures partner and now is a producer on the lot. He shows that you just keep going, that's your job when you have cancer.

    James Duval