God, this is awkward. Do I say something? Should I say something? Why? Does it make me feel more important, that I am more validated in my opinion, in my experience? I think it does, just like any other experience in life, saying that I have been there gives credibility. But for some reason, cancer is different. It is not like saying, “Oh, yeah, I traveled there.” Or saying “I broke my arm in second grade.” People take these kinds of references easily, casually, without concern, and sometimes with humor. But cancer….”Oh, yeah, I had cancer. Man that was rough, but, look I toughed it out. Sure hated all the vomiting though!..haha….,hah.” Awkward. You can see their faces change, feel the energy shift, and suddenly, you are a foreigner. Suddenly, it is like someone died, and no one wants to say their name, or make a reference to the role that person played in your life. Like walking on eggshells. Why this sudden disconnect? Why this shift to “You are different and I can’t relate.” Well, you have never been to Peru either, but at least you were still treating me like a person who had an amazing, enriching, and valuable experience. When I say I had cancer, what is the point? It is always in reference to the conversation. I have never said “I have something to tell you,” without context, like I have a big ,dark, dirty life-changing secret. But that is what it feels like. As if when I don’t say something, I am purposely choosing to hide something drastic about myself. This icky, stressful feeling of lying creeps in, somehow I am not being totally honest and transparent. I do pull the cancer card to validate my experience, sure, because it is something that sets me apart, and that shifted my entire life perspective. Cancer provided me with opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive in environments, facing challenging that are unique. So when I say “Well, I had cancer, and I appreciate each moment,” that is MY validation. That is not to say that your experience with your own health, emotional, mental, physical, environmental, or experiential challenges is ANY less valid. But for some reason, people feel like my having cancer belittles their own life, stresses, sadness, and hardships. I can see it, I can feel it when I say “I had cancer.” So sometimes I don’t, because I don’t want the other people in the conversation to feel belittled. And have you noticed too, how cancer questions are all the same? “What kind did you have? How old were you?” That is pretty much it. Part of the awkwardness comes from people not knowing what to say, what to ask, or how to incorporate it into a conversation without a huge hiccup. When I reference having cancer in a conversation, as it applies, others feel like the whole rhythm of the conversation must stop to acknowledge this, when really I was only adding that to say “I went to Cincinnati for treatment,” casually, not to open a whole icky can of worms. So…do I tell you? Could I tell you? Would you know what to do with it? How would you react? Mostly, I don’t say anything, to avoid what feels like an embarrassing spotlight. Sometimes, I do speak up to shed some light and perspective. And I know life experience of others matters just as much. So please, share your experiences if I share mine with you, and we can both feel acknowledged, respected, and comfortable.