Survivor tip: Allow yourself an identit…


Survivor tip: Allow yourself an identity that isn't about cancer

March 1, 2017 | by Catherine Brunelle

This is the thing, when you have cancer – like, when you are stuck with living with cancer, one of the best things possible is to forget about it all together.

I don’t mean forget your appointments and such . . . tempting, but no.

I mean, have a passion, hobby, job, whatever, that is not related or motivated or influenced by the disease.

I can remember back when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer about four years ago.

First there came the shock.

Then there came the fight.

And then, I didn’t want to be alone. You know?

I wanted to reach out to those who got it. That’s actually how I found Facing Cancer Together. It’s also how I started an online magazine called Narrative Nipple, became a peer supporter for Rethink Breast Cancer, created a still-running blog called Bumpyboobs, wrote guest articles on various sites that dealt with cancer, and became a community manager to boot for this wonderful organization.

For a long time, there was this urgent need for me to deal with cancer by engaging its impact. And I don’t think I’m alone in that experience. Many, many others that I know who have received the diagnosis dived into the community of support – whether they became advocates, speakers, bloggers, game-changers, they gave forward to help others.

I find it inspiring. And even more, I find it a testimony of resilience and determination for those who continue making a difference long after that first or second post-diagnosis year.

How wonderful is it that when we are at our most hurt, we want to protect and support other people? That’s one of those lovely tidbits that lets you know people can be so good to one another.

So, that is what I noticed, and that is exactly what I have been part of.

But there has been a growing, nagging, and now urgent need for me to live apart from the identity of cancer patient.

With stage four, it is a long game of hide and seek with the cancer cells . . . so, you know, I am not sure there will ever be a “after you are done treatment it will all get better” – which means I really need to live now as though it were all behind me. (even if scans terrify me, and I have a regular series of heartbreaks picturing the ‘what ifs’?)

Does that makes sense?

Anyhow, I’m not throwing everything out the window – I think these past four years of my life have been eye opening and compassion growing, I love blogging and I love the people I’ve met. You can’t throw away things you love, right?

BUT. My goodness, is it ever important to have a life that is not about cancer.

For me, that’s writing stories, building websites, running a podcast, playing board games, shelving library books, riding the bus, making videos, travelling like crazy, building a business... I love that stuff too.

All of this to say, I’m building a new website for my podcast Write Along Radio, and it’s a damn crazy process. is both confusing and fascinating. I feel like this is the ages 0-2 kit in the world of online website-making, since I bought a premade template and am now tweaking it via plugins . . . but hey, I’m learning. It’s cool. It’s fun. It’s infuriating. And it’s taking a lot of my attention away from the scan that is set to happen at the start of March.

(There is always another scan, I'm sure folks get tired of hearing about it. But hey! there is ALWAYS another scan. That's not fun.)

Now, all of that being said, I am grateful for having a platform to share all of these thoughts. Mulling over this stuff is not dinner table conversation; it’s facing cancer and online community conversation.

So there you go.

I want my life to firstly be about creating great things. This is a point in my life where I can be healthy enough, and blessed with tools to play, make, write and do. It’s a very good thing.

Now, what about you? Anyone out there reading this? What’s your life away from the hard stuff like? What gets you excited? Is cancer big part of your life outside of treatments, and do you think it will always be that way?


Read more from Catherine Brunelle at her blog Bumpyboobs.

Advice breast cancer Identity

Catherine Brunelle

Katie Pollock