Happily Sad

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.

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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?

8 thoughts on “Happily Sad

  1. Glynis

    So true, so true! Happily sad is where I find myself right here and right now. I agree with you; no 2 journeys are the same; everyone has a unique experience. There is no right way or wrong way to deal with breast cancer; you just do the best you can. And, you my beautiful friend do it so gracefully and you are an inspiration to others.

    Be well
    Much Love

  2. Hi Glynis,
    You did such an amazing job describing what some of us experience during this journey. I have found that some people try to tell you that you shouldn’t feel a certain why but if it was them they probably would feel just the way we feel at times. I have had a lot of trouble with my first couple of rounds of chemo it knocks me down for about ten days then I have 10 pretty good days that I just want to enjoy my family and son.. I feel that the 10days I am out I need to make up for when I feel good. I cry just because sometimes and I don’t even know why. I feel alone although I am not alone I have plenty of friends and family to help me along. I just have to tell you that you are amazing and keep on going strong.

  3. I can certainly relate to,Glynis!I’m in the last phase of my treatment.Having survived chemotherapy(happy!),radiation therapy(happier!),but,I haven’t been as fortunate in the body image department.I lost my left breast(sad!),but that’s not quite the truth…It wasn’t lost,cancer stole it from me(very sad!).But life goes on…I was wondering if it was just me/was I all alone,because I was diagnosed in November 2009…the worst of my treatment(Hell!Sad!!!)but,it is over!And,I can’t seem to “shake”those “blue”moments that are seemly unaffected by my resolve to “get past”all this!After all I wasn’t diagnosed over a year ago?…Is there something “wrong”with me ?That I can continue to have these “moments”,and sometimes more frequently then I like.As I respond to this post,I’m “sad”!I didn’t wake up sad,but sad I am nonetheless!So,Glynis…I understand your struggle…It is mine as well!I look forward to the day that instead of my days being happy/sad/happy/sad,sad…I can conquer this feeling,instead of it continuing to win by a TKO!I have faith,I come from three generations of women who have overcome tremendous odds.I just have to keep “tapping”into that faith,and the strength of those who have gone on before me.I have also two REALLY great women,who I have met through this journey.One is finished with all her treatments,and the other is in her last phase of treatment like me.We have been a great support system for each other!I have a great,supportive family…but,my two new girlfriends,have each walked in my shoes!It’s funny…writing a response to your story has put me back in a “happy”place…Keep your fingers crossed for me!I will keep you in my prayers as well!

  4. This article was inspiring and I related totally. My last chemo treatment will be on March 8th. After that I have another surgery to remove the tissue expanders for implants and then I’m going on Tamoxfin for 5 years. Somedays I feel good emotionally and physically. Others days I feel sad because I’ve never liked the idea of being on long term medication. I ate healthy and worked out regurlary. I’m a 35 year old single mother and my diagnosis to say the least rocked my world. I’m so thankful and blessed that I had a village of support and I truly believe this journey has made me a stronger person. It feels as though breast cancer has stripped me and made me take a real deep look at who I was from the inside. Facing myself in the mirror with no hair, watching my skin lose it’s glow,the weakness in my eyes, the sight of my once soft chest replaced by hardness. Thank you Glynis for verbalizing the feelings in such a honest way. God Bless You!

  5. WOW…., Lisa, Jamie, Tony & Keya…. can you each feel the hug I am giving you? I am so glad that there are others who are walking the walk… I wish I could be with you all so we could have a hot cup of green tea (smile) to start the day. There is nothing like spending time with someone who is compassionate and understands your journey. As we all wear different shoes, we travel the same road. I do understand being alone in a crowded room. I do understand waking up happy only to look just past it to see sadness sitting there. It’s like that cousin that isn’t welcomed and then has the nerve to stay too long.

    Ladies, hold on to all the love and joy you have… Remember the good times and when you feel up to it, have your friends just a few, come over and laugh. Eat things that make you happy and that are good for you… they do exist (smile – again) and if you want, send your telephone number to my email address so we can talk. Also if any of you need help with your eyebrows, please let me know because I have something that will really help.

    Have a wonderfrul day my sisters and I hope to hear from you all soon.

    Live Strong
    Love Hard
    Laugh A Lot
    Live in my World

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