When you're diagnosed with cancer, there is no right or wrong way to handle your diagnosis. Just because I acted one way doesn't mean that's the right way or the way anyone else should do it.
Once we receive a cancer diagnosis, we all have to decide if this is something we're going to share with a lot of people. My cervical cancer battle was very public in my community. When I think back to why, I'm not sure I know. It could be that I live in a very supportive and tight-knit community, or it could be that I was very open about my cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment. It could be that my friends were the epitome of a support system. It may be a combination of all of those reasons.
Who do you share you cancer with?
The only way I've ever known how to handle my cancer diagnosis is by being public and open.
One woman I met after my diagnosis told me that she handled her diagnosis in the opposite way: When she was diagnosed, she didn't tell anyone. She didn't want to be a burden to anyone. She was alone through her journey, but that was by choice. That was a foreign concept to me as the emotional support I received from others helped me through the process. But the journey is different for everyone.
Be true to yourself in sharing your cancer journey
In addition to who you share with, what and how you share it are important, too.
I have acquaintances whom have felt angry during their cancer treatment and have expressed that anger on social media. If that's what works for them, that's OK, too.
Humor was something that helped me through my treatment. When I traveled to MD Anderson from Florida with my friend Barbara, we actually had fun. How can that be? We were headed to Houston for nine hours of chemotherapy treatment and a week of sickness, but we did. We embraced the moments we had, and it worked for me.
On our flights to Houston, we often asked to have our picture taken in the cockpit. It was a significant contrast to the flights home, when I traveled in a wheelchair, was put in an airplane seat and slept until we landed. We told everyone that I had cancer.
When we were out with friends at restaurants, we asked the server to guess which one of us had cancer. Laughter was important to me. It wasn't forced. It was authentic.
However you choose to do cancer, it's your choice. Be true to who you are and what works for you.
Linda Ryan thought she had checked cancer off her list. Having just run her first marathon, it was hard to imagine that her cervical cancer had returned after seven years. Cancer chose the wrong woman. She was ready to battle cancer for the third time with health, laughter and friendship.