This entry was written by Glynis Rhodes, who was just featured in The Philadelphia Tribune in honor of Black History Month:
Life is full of emotions and a cancer diagnosis only adds to the emotions. My cancer gave birth to many emotions, one of which I call “happily sad.” What an oxymoron. You may wonder how I can be happy and sad in the same breath. It’s easy.
I was sad to be diagnosed, happy that it wasn’t terminal. I was happy to keep my body intact, sad that I lost my hair. There are just so many ups and downs, and happiness and sadness become fraternal twins. How strange that they become so close, never leaving each other behind yet living in opposite ends of your heart. For such a long time my heart was heavy with the constant reminder of having cancer. I looked forward to my survivorship. Each day I tried to move past the sadness and some days I did. I felt that if I kept my spirits up, it would lighten the journey. My treatment knocked me down after round four of chemotherapy making it necessary to leave work behind for a while and focus totally on my health. So once again I was happily sad, happy that I could concentrate on my health and sad because I missed a friend’s wedding, my family reunion, and our fall hay ride.
I later experienced a new anger that stemmed from comparisons. During conversations I would hear comments like my cancer did not keep me down, I didn’t worry about my hair, I never missed a day of work,and my all time favorite (sarcasm), I never once asked ‘why me.’ My only response was, “well good for you – can you tell I’m angry?” While I am happy for those who do not have to come out of their normal life during treatment, think about how those who have to. Think about how they feel. No two journeys are alike.
Faith can move mountains and help you to find comfort and a way out. So that anger was often followed by hugs, smiles, or a phone call. Somehow someone reached out to me just in the nick of time and there was joy.
It’s hard to express the emotions that a cancer diagnosis gives birth to. I feel trapped. Many days I feel my breasts are the enemy and at times, I am afraid of them. Are they going to kill me? I am happy to have them but sad they don’t like me. It’s all bottled up inside and every now and then I have to let it out, happy to have friends to lean on, sad to talk about being sick.
There is a picture of a beautiful bald woman with a half-smile in my living room. While many see strength and inspiration, I struggle to feel what they see because she is me. I see someone unsure and desperately looking for joy, one who gained the world by losing a part of herself. The picture does give me a joyful lift with a hint of sadness due to the circumstances of which it was taken. Posing for the picture brought me closer to who I was, closer to my happiness and further away from sadness. It gives a glimpse of life after treatment. It shows me there can be beauty in having cancer; we just need help to find it. We need be honest about how we feel, when we feel it.
Is having cancer a blessing and a curse? This journey will bring more to your life than you ever imagined. The sadness, the joys, the highs, the lows. Hold on to the good, let go of the bad, even if you live each day feeling “happily sad.” No one knows you better than you — your dreams, your goals, your wants… Deal with them openly and honestly. It’s the only way to win — and to be happy once you’ve finished being sad.
In honor of Black History Month, Glynis was highlighted in an article featured in The Philadelphia Tribune. She shares her story of voyage through her breast cancer diagnosis and admits that she relied on the strength of the three other family members who were diagnosed too.
Tell us about the emotions you have and how they relate to your experience with breast cancer. Is there a such thing as “happily sad?” If so, what does it mean to you?