I have to say that though I understand, I don’t like the way some people wear their illnesses like a badge of honor. Having been diagnosed with an illness does not give someone carte blanche to be rude, brash, nor arrogant. Some people give off a sense of entitlement that somehow came along with their doctor’s prescription for treatment. A perfect example of this is a woman I met yesterday.
She was having her eighth and final chemotherapy treatment before going into surgery next month. From the moment she sat down in the waiting room and well into her treatment she did not stop talking about her illness, how she was going to cut people from her life because since being diagnosed they didn’t ask how she was doing. She even admitted that she stopped speaking to her son because he did not ask her soon enough (for her opinion) how she was feeling. They are still not speaking to this day. And yet, she kept saying what a happy person she is and has been through the entire treatment. She even went so far as to say, “I don’t like people who are not happy. What have they got to be unhappy about? I have cancer and I’m a happy person.” I bit my lip when I heard that and refused to look up from my iPad to even give any sort of acknowledgment to one of the most outrageous statements I’ve ever heard.
I believe that illnesses happen to not only get our attention to something that has gone remiss in the body, but also, sometimes, it is the universe’s way of forcing a redirect of our life. I’ve known people who hide behind their illnesses and use them as a way to get what they want from other people, via sympathy, or attention, and get out of doing things they don’t want to do. Maybe having a diagnosis and an illness is giving them a voice for the first time in their lives or perhaps, it is giving them justification for stepping back and away from jobs, people, friends, family–sometimes life itself. I get that. But my problem are with those people who feel entitled to bully because they wear the cape of cancer, or arthritis, or whatever.
While I admired this woman’s resiliency and her can-do attitude, she made me angry and sorry for her at the same time. Her energy of “Look at me and what I’m going through” was invasive and filled the room. Sometimes an illness is a wake up call for someone to find their own voice or empowerment, and sometimes people miss the message. I remember when I had cervical cancer many years ago, a month after I was diagnosed with anorexia. Feeling brazen, with both barrels loaded, early on, I was almost daring people and circumstances to contradict me because I was harboring feelings of “Oh yeah? Well I have cancer and anorexia, so I can do and say what I want. What are you going to do about it?” As shocked as I was to feel those things within myself, I quickly reigned them in and shook them off because they were ugly feelings of entitlement that I knew didn’t belong and definitely wasn’t who I really was. Thankfully with incredible support, I got over it—the illnesses and the attitude!
I applaud everyone who has beaten an illness or is fighting against one and I am sorry that people have to suffer, but it’s when people use that suffering or illness and turn it to a dishonest crutch or battering ram, I can’t help but feel sorry for them because people like that will never truly heal and are missing the whole point of what an illness can really teach them.