Sometimes I feel like a cancer fraud. No, I’ve never lied to you about having cancer; I do really have leukemia. My fraud relates to the cancer itself. Although I’ve had my ups and downs with illness, and some especially tough times with leukemia, I haven’t gone through the trials and tribulations that many of my cancer-surviving peers have. My chemo is fairly benign. I’ve spent only a few days rather than weeks or months without an immune system. I’ve needed some blood products but not all that often compared to my other Cancer Club peers. Sure, my energy isn’t great, but I can still walk my dog every morning, make healthy meals for our family, and even manage (barely) a challenging yoga class.
I have a cancer that has a fairly newly discovered simple treatment regimen. Each year, new drugs are being patented to destroy my type of leukemia cells, so if the drug I’m on stops working, other options may be out there. Not everyone is this lucky. I know this from people in my life who’ve had cancer, as well as the many volunteers I’ve met through the Calgary Cancer Project. Treatment is often much more invasive and disruptive, and many patients feel much sicker before they start feeling better.
I’m worried I’ve duped the magnificent Jessica Dollard, the Patient Centred Experience Advisor with this Project, into thinking I’m a prototypical cancer patient when I’m not. Still, she has chosen me, along with some other (in my view) worthier volunteers, as one of the faces of cancer in Calgary. She would like to bring some real-life stories of cancer survivors to those bidding on the new Cancer Centre. Our stories may be used to solicit funds for the new Cancer Centre as well. I love this idea. Potential bidders and donors should know who they’re building the facility for. Jess believes, rightly or wrongly, that I could be one of those people.
So yesterday, some people came to my house to take my picture and film a brief interview on my experience with cancer. There were photographers and a videographer, and cases and cases of lighting. I’m going to be a cancer star! But will everyone think that I’m a fraud?
Scratch that. How many times have I told my clients we can’t compare our experiences, and their impact on us, with those of others? I have leukemia and, easy cancer or not, it’s had a profound impact on my life and the life of my family. It’s made me a demanding, needy friend. It’s interfered with my working and what I do in my my leisure time, added financial stress, disrupted our retirement plan, and made life especially challenging for J., my primary support person.
So no more apologies. I deserve to be that poster child. Bring on the cameras! Now, what to wear, what to wear? But where’s the person to do my makeup and my hair? I’m a failure at all that stuff. Well, I guess if I am unadorned, I’ll be a more genuine face of cancer.