Come as You Are: Living in Stage Four
Posted on June 10, 2013, 7:45 AM
Reblooged from Stand Up To Cancer Blog
By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Everybody loves a winner. And when I first got cancer, I was such a winner. I had faced a malignant melanoma diagnosis, a difficult, permanently scarring surgery, and a painful recovery with flying colors. I was, both friends and strangers alike told me admiringly, a “survivor.” Then a year later I was rediagnosed. Metastatic this time. Stage Four. And suddenly I wasn’t a winner any more.
Growing up, I was always the kid picked last in gym class, the one nobody really wanted on their teams. When I got Stage Four cancer, it was a lot like that. I wasn’t the popular survivor any more. I wasn’t a feel good champion of pluck and survival. Some of my friends looked awkwardly at their feet when I came into the room. Others told me – with great authority – that I just needed a positive attitude and I could beat this thing. Some flat out dumped me. It was a lonely, weird place. But you know who needs a team most? It’s not the popular kid. It’s the scared, lonely one in the back. I never needed help and support and basic kindness more than I when I was at Stage Four, and yet I never felt more invisible. And almost as deep as my fear of the cancer that was growing within my body was the profound sense that I had somehow let everybody down. That I was a disappointment.
Fortunately, soon after my devastating news, I joined a local cancer support group. Even before my first meeting, I knew it was the right place for me because of its simple four word slogan. “Come as you are.” There, it didn’t matter that I was Stage Four, that my odds were slim. There, I didn’t feel like I was on death row, I wasn’t a failure in my personal version of “Survivor: Cancer Island.” In my support group, I could just come as I was, every week, with no expectations, no performance anxiety.
People with metastatic cancer tend to be ignored in the public discourse of cancer. We don’t fit the profile of the upbeat warrior, triumphant and bald. And so, we often remain unseen. Mysterious. Definitely a little spooky. I certainly didn’t know much about what the terrain was like until I found myself on it. All I knew was that it had to very, very bad for there to be no Stage 5. And so, when my oncologist told me I was Stage Four, I was, unsurprisingly……………
Read more by going to… Stand Up To Cancer — Come as You Are: Living in Stage Four.