How Speaking Our Truth Can Help Us Heal

How Speaking Our Truth Can Help Us Heal

It’s been exactly two years since I finished chemo. Two and a half years since my diagnosis. And in that time my hair has grown, I’ve graduated from university, traveled alone, moved overseas, gotten my first real job, and fallen in love.

Life has carried on.

But the scars remain. Truth is, it takes a long time to recover from something as traumatic as cancer. And even though I can feel myself growing and healing every day, there are still these frequent moments when I feel the freshness of the wound. It’s an ongoing journey.

Although going through cancer has undeniably shaped me into a stronger and more resilient person, I find myself often feeling consumed by a state of fear and anxiety — a feeling that can be triggered by the smallest of things. Airplane turbulence, driving in a fast car on a mountainside, living in a country with frequent earthquakes, all of these experiences can grip me with panic. It’s as if the realization that it can and did all fall apart in a moment, leaves me feeling terrified it might happen again. That sickness could come knocking anytime. That accidents happen, and diseases are diagnosed and sometimes the people we love leave us.

That is why we have to talk about it. We have to use words as a conduit, a means to express, grapple, and come to terms with what we went through. We have to tell our story. Not to make it into our identity or to “play the victim,” but to let it go. To heal. That was my motivation for writing this column. Because I wanted to share my story and speak my truth, pull up the obscured roots of the past and lay them out in the sun to dry.

But sometimes it can be really difficult. And not necessarily for the reasons one might think, which is that rehashing the past is too painful. Truthfully, the most difficult part is actually other people’s reactions. It’s this feeling that they do not want to hear about what I went through. Why? Because it induces within them a feeling of discomfort, an integral fear that they too could possibly get sick. As if they could be infected just by hearing that someone young, seemingly healthy and similar to them could experience such a thing. And so the word cancer enters the conversation and immediately it is brushed away, exchanged for something “lighter,” more “palatable” because just the utterance of the c-word is too heavy, too morbid, too macabre.

But I want to talk about it. I want to divulge my experiences, dump my feelings out onto the table for everyone to see. I want to describe how it felt to have my entire life upended at the age of 22, how it felt to see and feel my body weakened and ravaged by this disease. I want to talk about how before my cancer I was living a carefree, self-indulgent existence, preoccupied with the most menial of things; and then how radically altered I was, how in many ways I feel cancer robbed me of a few more years of innocence. Yet, I’m also supremely grateful to have had this awakening while so young.

There are so many things to be said and so much I long to express, and that is why I use writing as my medium. Because I can’t afford a therapist and because writing is my therapy. But whatever your outlet may be, whatever your form of self-expression, you have to speak your truth. Whether it’s talking to someone, starting a blog, or writing poetry. Whether it’s volunteer work, singing your heart out in the car or shower, scrawling doodles, painting, reading, learning a foreign language, or teaching. Whether you express it through the way you dress, or the manner you fashion your hair. Whether it’s through public speaking or playing sports, dancing all night, or swimming laps every day. There are a million ways to let it out, to speak your truth. The vice or the medium doesn’t matter. What matters is that you don’t keep it bottled inside.

You can’t be afraid of what people think, or if their eyes glaze over when you tell your story, because the truth is that many people aren’t capable of understanding. Not everyone can empathize with that level of struggle. And that’s OK. Wait for the ones who do. Because I promise you they are out there. And in the meantime, create art. Be bold, be courageous, be loud. Express your truth. Do it however you can and in whatever way you like — but just do it.

I promise you that speaking your truth is cathartic. It’s healing. Your story is worthy of being heard.


Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.

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  1. Janet Graham says:

    Michele a very inspiring story-so proud of you with your positive direction to help others before kind and humanitarian..your spirit is definitely left on earth as you must have so many lessons to complete on your journey in life. It just wasn’t your time to leave us. I am a Mom to five grown kids 4 daughters and they had a brother the baby of group Seth who passed away on April 14 2016. He left three small kids behind. we are still and always will be so sad we dont have him with us..especially for his kids. they are almost 9 and the twins are 5.5. Seth had NHL_Burkitts Tumor Large B Cell. A 9cm tumor formed inside his left cheek.He was a perfectly healthy adult and child- at 26 came down with this aggressive cancer. why-that is the question which I keep researching all the time Genetics, DNA,, food, water, air pollution or chemical poisoning? What triggers these cells? He got diagnose 10 01 15. He had 5 chemo protocols..was declared inn remission around Christmas of 15 by a PET SCAN…sadly three weeks later the cells got into the spinal fluid and his stats dropped to 15% survival rate. By March 2016 He had a Grand Mal Seizure rushed to hospital ICU in Waterbury-then to Yale Hospital where they gave him radiation to reduce the swelling on the brain. It worked and it was looking so good for rehab till an error in meds occurred sending him into a respiratory arrest and he had to to be intubated again. This introduced sepsis. By April 14 206 he was gone. Yes it does help to talk about it..but people are scared I am too for his sisters-are they carrying a gene for this? His Dad was in Vietnam and exposed to Agent Orange..he cried thought he killed his son. The gov’t in the med journals acknowledges Burkitts NHL as one of the cancers caused by Agent Orange passed on to 2nd and third generation children ..but will not on paper pay out the benefits only for spinal bifida. Or was it Roundup? A toxic weed killer Seth used in business and at the houses to kill weeds? that product has been proven to cause his type of Cancer and others..Our City alone was the Brass City of the world at one time 60 years ago but we have been ravaged with a non cleanup of radioactive materials in our air and soil and in the ground. Its not fair rather selfish of the people causing the deaths of others by incompetence.
    You are an inspiration Im sure to many struggling with pain and fear and your right the other 80% of healing is a strong mind-that you have…thanks for sharing God Bless Janet

  2. Donna says:

    I was diagnosed 14 months ago with stage 2, type B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Went through 4 months of ABVD chemo and 5 weeks of radiation. Lost may hair and my husband of 14 years. He served me with divorce papers while I was still going through chemo and a category 4 hurricane was aiming for where I live. I have no other family nearby. I have been declared cancer free and am getting ready for my 6 month checkup and scans in a few weeks.

    Strangely, when I try to talk to people who know me about what I went through and how devastating it was, no one wants to hear about it. I am told things like, “that is in the past”, or “you need to move on” or “you’re better now”.

    What they don’t realize is that once you are dealt that cancer card, it is ALWAYS in your deck. I may be cancer free right now but I still live with side effects of the treatment and know that I am at a much greater risk for other types of cancer. Not only my health was affected, but I lost my marriage as well. It was the single worst year of my life and to not acknowledge that would somehow diminish what I went through and what I feel. I sometimes walk through the door after work and have a anxiety attack when I realize that I am totally alone. Sure, when I was undergoing treatment, the nurses and doctors treating me checked on me all the time. Now that I am in remission, no one checks on me. It is as if I no longer matter. On to the next patient!

  3. Vanessa Holland says:

    Hello Donna, my heart is so heavy for you. You have truly gone through some difficult times. And you may be faced with more to come…..I understand your anxiety about being cancer free or in remission. I sometimes feel like it’s the terminology doctors use to describe the period of time between cancers. However, there are cancer survivors who never get cancer again. The only thing to do now, is live. In spite of your husband leaving you at the worst time to do so, you made it. Try to find some local groups to join up with, some other ladies who enjoy the same interests. Take care of your body and take care of your mind. You have whatever it is you need, reach within yourself and find it. Don’t be regretful of the past, be thankful of the future yet to come. Be willing to live your life, with all it’s pitfalls and setbacks. No one’s life is perfect and you have endured more than anyone will ever know. You are strong and deserve to feel whole….to feel complete on your own.

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