A friend and I were shooting Facebook Messenger messages back and forth this afternoon, precipitated by actor Wentworth Miller’s heartfelt and honest social media post about his struggle with depression and suicide.
I admitted that much of Miller’s message rang true for me — the depression part, not so much the suicide part. Miller was responding to a social media meme critical of a photo in which he appears to have gained significant weight. In his response, he writes about being an emotional eater, especially when he is depressed.
Ultimately, our discussion circled around to how 1) we never know what’s going on behind the photos posted on Facebook and elsewhere, and 2) social media prompts us to hide behind perfection while not being authentic.
I attempt to project authenticity. My grateful and positive demeanor is not manufactured, after all, but I have to admit some things I don’t talk about in detail.
I gloss over the long-term side effects of my treatment.
While I laugh often about having a permanent colostomy, I don’t talk about the fact that I have to change my appliance roughly every 12 hours of late because while I’m losing weight my belly is changing and shit escapes the barrier ring that sticks the appliance to my skin. I wouldn’t call it a leak per se, but it’s still messy.
I give short shrift to the neuropathy in my feet, mentioning it but skipping over details like stones across a lake. The reality is I haven’t slept well since I started chemotherapy in September 2012, first because of the drugs and then because of the side effects. The numbness in my feet is especially pronounced at night and wakes me up several times. My legs ache and I can’t get comfortable.
I can drug myself to sleep, but I end up groggy the next day so it’s not a viable solution. I’ve tried medication, acupuncture, supplements, lotions, heavy socks and more. I’ve done the work. Researchers tell me the neuropathy is permanent. A solution will present itself, but the standard “stuff” doesn’t do it for me.
I’m not looking for sympathy or empathy here. Just being real.
Cancer’s long-term side effects suck. We tend not to talk about them. Once survivorship has been declared, life is simply supposed to go on. I don’t talk about them every day because no one wants to be around that guy. Hell, I don’t want to be around that guy.
I also don’t let the side effects stop me. I exercise, hard, because I need to drop weight, which probably exacerbates both the colostomy issue and the neuropathy. I spend a lot of time on my feet every day because sitting is deadly. It is what it is.
My gratitude for being alive, and for the wonderful things that have happened in my life during the last four years is far stronger than any side effect.
I’m still here. Something for which I am truly grateful.