Cancer sucks. Cancer really really sucks. I blog about mental illness, and I actively campaign to help break down the stigma of mental illness; and I fully believe that mental illness is as important as physical illness. Because it is. Any illness is terrifying, heartbreaking and devastating. And, no one illness is more ‘important’ than another. However, on a day like today – February 4th 2016 – when there are so many people campaigning to show support for different illnesses, I can’t help but feel a need to articulate how stigma certainly affects peoples’ experience of various illnesses.
Mental Illness vs. Physical Illness
I will continue to actively campaign to break down mental health stigma, because the stigma that surrounds mental illness is completely different to the stigma that surrounds Cancer. For me one of the differences is how each illness affects me. I live with mental illness, and am continuously battling to stay alive.
The stigma of mental illness makes it a lot harder for me to comprehend the ‘importance’ of my illness, and I think it’s harder for others to understand mental illness, especially when someones suicidal – like, “why would someone choose to end their life when there’s people living with Cancer who would happily trade places with someone that’s mentally ill?” Well, mental illness is certainly not any less important, and devastating as Cancer. Suicidal behaviour, completing suicide and trying to deal with suicidal thoughts isn’t a choice. Just like Cancer isn’t a choice, mental illness isn’t a choice, and feeling suicidal isn’t a choice.
Like I said, no one illness is more important than another, however the portrayal and perception of certain illnesses definitely makes those who are mentally ill face stigma, and ultimately an unnecessary experience of feeling ‘ashamed, weak’ and ‘not good enough for ‘real’ illnesses like Cancer – I use the term ‘real’ ironically, of course every illness is real. Also, I’m really not in anyway trying to downgrade the seriousness and significance of Cancer, I’m just struggling to articulate how (to me) mental illness can be as devastating, desolate and heartbreaking as Cancer.
And, Cancer comes with it’s own stigma – I don’t know the stigma that surrounds Cancer as well as I do mental health, and I certainly don’t understand what it’s like to battle Cancer. Which is why I feel so strongly about raising awareness, and campaigning for both mental illness and physical illness; I’m definitely not in any position to declare that we only focus on one illness, that we only campaign for better portrayal or support of mental illness rather than physical illness, because an illness is an illness. Any type of illness can hit us hard, any type of illness can destroy our lives, destroy our perception of the world, and destroy our ability to live a ‘normal’ life (whatever that is).
World Cancer Day
Today is a special day when it comes to raising awareness for various illnesses, and although it’s #TimeToTalk day there is 100% no way I will fail to raise awareness of World Cancer Day.
It’s widely known and accepted that Cancer sucks. Cancer has affected my life in so many ways, from the loss of family members to watching someone who I love dearly battle Cancer – and battle it bloody tremendously.
I have a family friend, a family friend who has been so poignant in my life, who has battled lung cancer tirelessly, and awe-inspiringly for the past five years. This family friend is one who tried to save my mother and I during a natural disaster, so the love and respect I have for her is something that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate. I cannot even begin to express how incredible this lady is, she has battled Cancer in such a way that honestly inspires me and leaves me feeling invincible every time I see, or think about her. A few years ago, five years after losing her husband to lung cancer, she was given just six months to live, and has since gone on to absolutely smash through those six months, raising huge amounts for charity, building her own home, throwing fabulous parties, taking on new adventures and still managing to guide me through some pretty tough times. She is without a doubt so important to my family and I. Her friendship with my mother is something that I will always be grateful for, and the memories and love that we all share is pretty special.
Dianne has regularly shared her story, publicly raising money for Compton Hospice and inspiring so many people (myself included). Here’s just some links to press articles featuring Dianne:
- My final few weeks will not be wasted says mother told she is dying of Cancer
- Life’s for living – and mother Dianne Freeth plans to continue doing just that
- Instead of a funeral, I wanted to have a life party
- Creating Memorable Moments for Hospice Patients
- Everyone should have a ‘Life Party’