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The Categories Of Cancer People

“My period has totally stopped,” I said. “I’m worried something is wrong because of my treatments and that it means I won’t be able to get pregnant.”

“Well, you’re lucky. My bleeding is just out of control. Horrible cramps,” she responded.

Just to be clean the record, she is perfectly healthy…just complaining about her period to someone worrying about infertility. This describes my post-cancer relationship with more than one friend who pre-dates my diagnosis.

So many cannot hold the hurt and truth of others. I can’t always manage it myself, but I always try. I guess she does too…but it doesn’t always seem that way.

And so the people in my life sort themselves. There are several categories.

There are the ‘cancer happened, let’s analyze this scientifically’ crew. They launch into statistics and practice problem-solving at the drop of a hat. There are the ‘nod but say nothing’ crew, who leave you self-conscious and wondering what they were thinking through the glazed expression on their face. There are the ‘omg that reminds me of this basically irrelevant story that probably makes me less uncomfortable than the one you just told’ crew who divert the conversation into something they find more suitable while completely invalidating your feelings. There are the ‘holding’ crew, who physically or emotionally (or both) hold your hurt and your words.

The other girlfriend of mine in the room waited for our mutual friend to stop comparing my infertility concerns with her cycle’s annoyances, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful mother, however it happens.”

“Yep, She’s a holder,” I thought.

The holders are the best. They can sit in your muck, and help you dig out while still acknowledging how stinky the whole situation is.

My goal, from the second I became a caregiver and on into my cancer and my survivorship, has been to be a holder in all aspects of my life. I want to show up for people, to be brave. I want to have children and be able to do the same for them.

Some days it’s hard. I feel stuck in my own muck and cannot easily trudge through someone else’s. But some days, I can do it.

How would you respond to the writing prompt, of a photo of day by day candling of duck eggs?


This writing comes directly from one of our participants in our Unspoken Ink Creative Writing Group for young adult cancer survivors.  The participants meet for 2 hours each week, for 10 weeks during our Fall 2016 session.  This writing has not been edited since its original creation, showing the wonderfully raw and powerful prose coming from the courageous writing group participants each week.  If you’d like to sign up for future sessions, please email or sign up on our interest form.