As a young adult cancer patient, it is okay to feel ugly, unproductive, and dumb. Cancer might kill you, but so-called “negative” emotions and unpleasant feelings won’t.
When I was diagnosed with cancer at age 27, I went from being a social butterfly with an active dating life, to a homebody dressed in pajamas around the clock. I didn’t feel pretty. I also didn’t feel productive. My career ambitions as a choreographer went on hold. I crafted dances in my head while I was laying still in MRI machines, but I didn’t have the energy to make it into the studio, and my visions did not make it onto a stage. I had to reserve my energy for other things like researching my disease and scrutinizing my doctors. I was becoming a savvy patient educated about biology, pharmacology, and radiology. Yet, I was so sleep deprived from stress, I sometimes couldn’t hold an intelligible conversation with my friends. Huge fluctuations in my thyroid hormones caused cancer brain fog, and I didn’t have the mental stamina to read the newspaper or a fiction book. I was not my snappy intellectual self. Instead, I felt dumb.