Cancer, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS….the list goes on. Imagine having one of these horrible diseases.
Unfortunately, I have friends who suffer from some of these ailments. We have been told on more than one occasion, “I know how you feel.” I do not pretend to know how my friends feel, but having cancer, we do share similar feelings and challenges. Unless you have walked in our shoes, you can’t possibly know how we feel.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was Stage III. You don’t die from Stage 0 through III breast cancer. If your treatment eradicates the cancer and it comes back, you get treatment to try and eradicate it again. However, if it spreads outside of the breast, Stage IV, there is no longer treatment to eradicate the cancer inside of you, or cure you.
Looking back, I really had no idea how it felt to be Stage IV. Even as someone who was at Stage III, I really didn’t know how it felt to have metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is a whole new ballgame, with dire consequences and the emotional strain that goes with it.
At a party, in the supermarket, at the mall, it really doesn’t matter the place, but I will run into someone I have not seen in a while. We will engage in a nice conversation, and I am usually asked how I am doing. After I am through explaining how things are going, I am sometimes told, “I know how you feel.” My mouth opens wide. I want to scream. “WTF!” How the hell do you know how I feel living with metastatic breast cancer?!
Do you know what it feels like to:
- Be in treatment for the rest of your life
- Endure its nasty side effects
- Not be able to live a long and healthy life
- Know your time is limited with family and friends
- Not see your children graduate high school, college, or get married
- Not become a Grammy
- Leave the love of your life that you were suppose to grow old with
There are so many physical and emotional issues involved when you have an illness, especially one that is terminal.
I think I understand why someone might say, “I know how you feel”, to someone who has an illness such as metastatic breast cancer. Most likely they are being sympathetic, however, empathy is only something you can feel if you live life from our perspective.