The woes of chronic illness

Dearest Liver,

Chronic illness is the thing that I struggle with the most in my current situation. It’s the thing that makes me feel alone and sad and tends to trigger most of my recent meltdowns. It’s also something no one will ever fully understand unless they have the misfortune of having it, so I thought I could try and explain it to you.

When I was first diagnosed with metastatic cancer, I felt lucky to have such an amazing support system of family and friends. It was really hard to process the idea of having incurable cancer. I was just about to turn 30 and the thought of being “that cancer girl” for the rest of my life horrified me. My friends made jokes with me and told me that I was stupid for thinking that no one would ever love me or want to be with me because I have cancer. They were a shoulder to cry on and would take me out drinking and dancing whenever I needed a break from reality.

Things started changing after a couple of months of my treatment though. The initial shock of my cancer diagnosis was gone and although I was still struggling with treatment and side effects, life moved on for everyone else. I was told by a few very well intentioned friends that they were concerned that I was too obsessed with it and if I could just stop thinking about it, I would be better off.

I felt like I was given the standard breakup recovery timeline, but it didn’t work in this situation. When you first break up with someone your friends rally around you, support you, and do whatever they can to help transition you into single life and eventually dating again. But there is a threshold for how long people want to hear about it before they tell you to just move on. I’ve been on both sides of the breakup support system and am the first to admit that I am guilty of the same thing. My favorite breakup advice is “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” The problem with cancer, however, is that there isn’t any sort of quick fix to get you over it.

I spend much of my time being pumped full of poison, taking drugs to help with side effects of that, and then others to help with side effects from those drugs, etc. Every morning I wake up I feeling like I got run over by a truck. I’m exhausted, achy, nauseous, extra sensitive to smells, and mostly just wanting to crawl back under my covers and hide.

The worst part is that I can’t talk to most people about it anymore. I can see the looks in my friends’ eyes when I mention the C word and I shut down. I HATE that I have become the Debbie Downer of my groups of friends and I hate that I don’t have the energy to go out and do the things I used to love to do.

I used to love to be out talking to people, networking, and socializing. These days I find many of those interactions stressful. I avoid talking about myself as much as possible, and have become the master of changing topics. People usually want to have a good time, they don’t want to hear my cancer bullshit, and I can’t blame them for it. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and people never know how to respond.

Here are some things I have learned through my experience with chronic illness that might be helpful in dealing with me or others you know in a similar situation:

  1. I miss being fun and having fun. No one hates the fact that I’m a Debbie Downer more than me. If you’re my friend, please know this and try to hang out with me anyway. I will try my best to live in the moment and put all of my shit aside while I’m with you.
  2. I’m afraid of friend rejection. I probably don’t reach out to you as much as I used to, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss you. Chances are, I’m sitting at home being bored and watching Netflix and would LOVE your company. If you are down for a chill night please hit me up! Company is usually welcome and appreciated.
  3. Sometimes I just want you to listen and agree with me. I know that human nature is to try and comfort someone, but most of the time there isn’t anything to say or do to make my situation any better. I don’t want empty platitudes or to hear about how I should be happy that I felt sort of ok 1 day in the past 2 weeks. Sometimes I just want you to agree and and say, “you’re right, that does fucking suck!” and leave it at that.
  4. I don’t compare everything tell me to my cancer. Don’t think that you can’t talk to me about things in your life because I have my own shit. Please don’t tell me that you shouldn’t be complaining about your life because mine is worse. I hate that, I get still get annoyed about all kinds of stuff the same as someone else. I’m your friend, I want to hear about your life. Plus it’s good for me to be able to get out of my own bullshit and think about others.

Thanks for listening, Liver.

Love and kisses,



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