Ronni Gordon is  a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written about her journey, about health and fitness, and about how she and others have prevailed in difficult situations. She brings to her writing a mix of personal experience with knowledge about the health-care system and how cancer patients can navigate it. A graduate of Vassar College with a master's degree in journalism from Boston University, she is a freelance writer who worked in daily newspapers for more than 30 years. She has been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dana FarberCancer Institute magazine, and Cancer Today magazine. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her dog, Maddie, short for Madison (Avenue) in honor of her hometown, New York, and is mother of three grown children, Ben, Joe, and Katie

Ronni Gordon

Tags: Cancer | cancer | pity | party

Know When to Leave the Cancer 'Pity Party'

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 10:44 AM

By Ronni Gordon

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Don't stay too long at the pity party.
 
That is my thought for the week after hearing about two siblings, each with cancer, who have very different attitudes about the future.
 
The sister, a friend of mine, has been treated for lymphoma. She is in remission but knows it can come back any time. Her brother, who had successful surgery for pancreatic cancer, recently finished chemotherapy, but his doctors want him to keep his port in for a year, just in case.
 
He is depressed about the port staying in and, in her words, he's having a big pity party.

I’m sure it's a daily reminder to him that his cancer might come back. But still, at some point you need to move on as best as you can.
 
"I told him to enjoy every day and stop dwelling on it," my friend said. "Anyone can get hit by a truck but you can't think about that either."
 
His response: "How can you think like that when you have cancer?"
 
My friend refuses to get stuck in a quagmire. She and her husband, both retirees, are on a mission to visit all 50 states; they have three left. They are enjoying their grandchildren.

She has many orthopedic problems and can barely walk, yet she cheerfully gets around with help from a colorful cane.
 
As for me, when I was hospitalized with my second relapse, I sought out a nurse who I knew would tell it to me straight. I asked her how I could possibly go through chemotherapy and another transplant again.
 
"You can have your pity party for a day, and then you put on your boxing gloves," she said. And that is what I did.
 
We all have periods of self-pity. How can we not, when we think of careers detoured or aborted, days passed in a daze, life events missed, pain and suffering endured? We wouldn’t be human if we never went there.
 
Self-pity itself is a phrase that connotes weakness. It’s not weak to feel bad about all the havoc cancer wreaks. Sometimes we’re just plain angry,
 
Whatever we call it, let’s allow ourselves the "pity periods" without having a full-fledged "pity party." Let's not beat ourselves up over it.
 
And then let's move on.
 
 
  

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