Woman giving thumbs up and holding a smiling mask over her face pretending to be happy when she's frowning and sad

When I Say "I'm Ok" But I Am Not

When I was first diagnosed, one thing is for sure, I was not prepared for how often I would be asked how I was doing or feeling. Some people ask for true compassion and empathy. Those people touch my heart and move me. I feel I have to get better just to help them or at least comfort them in some way. Others ask because they just don't know what to ask or say. They feel they have to say something. Those dears. I feel I am always comforting them. But then there are those who ask just to ask. It's far too many of these. They have no feeling or response either way. You prefer they just don't ask. This is about my life.

Did you even hear me?

When I say "I'm fine" or "I'm ok" and people say, "I'm so glad you are doing so well" or "Glad to hear that!" I think they didn't hear me or don't understand. This isn't a cold or the flu. I don't get an antibiotic and will be better in 7-10 days. This doesn't get better with a good nap.

I have even asked some people if they really heard my reply. Or I ask them what do they think I mean when they hear my response. I am always stunned when I hear in return, "Well hey, it could be worse!" Just as I thought, "You, my friend, did NOT hear me and that was not the correct response! Let's try that one again, shall we?"

"You can't handle the truth!"

I often give that simple reply because it's easy and uncomplicated. And I usually don't know if others can handle the weight and reality of my honest answer. However I really want to say, 'THIS IS HOW I AM REALLY FEELING', but unfortunately that may come with heavy emotions, frustration, sadness, or even anger.

More on this topic

At times my conversation could be graphic. Consider we are dealing with our bodies (both internally and externally) and all that is being put through with treatments, procedures, surgeries, biopsies, radiation, tumors, weight loss/gain, side effects of all this, and just the disease itself. So if you ask, be prepared for us to really answer.

Failure to connect

I know the majority of the people I encounter honestly want to know and understand. They just don't know what to say, how to approach it, or express that correctly. I get it, I do. However, it doesn't excuse poor manners and insensitivity. Those of us who are surviving daily can handle awkward questions. And listen, don't worry about the uncomfortable! We are masters of uncomfortable questions and situations! In fact, what you think is uncomfortable, weird, or awkward more than like is a normal question for us. Just ask.

Listen...look...respond...repeat

By now, I am sure you are asking, "Leya, how am I supposed to 'decode' such a response, and is that even my responsibility?" (Yes, I heard you! LOL!) I am so glad you asked me! Allow me to shed a little light on the matter. First, let me say this isn't for every single person or every situation, but it has indeed been my experience and I hope it helps.

LISTEN to the sound of their voice.

LOOK in their face and SEARCH their eyes. Feel their heart; read their body language... You will find the truth in there. When you do, don't attack, accuse or condemn.

RESPOND accordingly and thoughtfully. Perhaps comfort is needed, or maybe encouragement. Maybe they are just about to break behind that perfect smile and need a listening ear or just a hug. It's also possible they really are doing well and we just want to enjoy cheerful moments with our loved ones and not think about cancer at all!

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