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Updated: Mar 11, 2022

People around you don't "get it" when it comes to your cancer journey

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By now, you have already realized that the people around you really have no clue as to what you’re truly dealing with. You have gathered that as hard as they have tried (or didn’t try...let's be honest), they just didn’t understand the whirlwind you were feeling during treatment. Well, as you well know, even after cancer they still don’t.

And this can hurt…bad.

So how do we fill the gap between ourselves and those around us?

1. Accept that they will never fully "get it"

No matter what you say, do, or try to explain to them, they will never fully understand it. You can't explain these types of things to people and expect them to grasp every faucet of your experience. Sure, they can listen and try their best to be empathetic, but unless they were to have walked in your exact shoes (which no one has - except you), there is always something left unsaid and unfelt.

Yes, this might be frustrating, coming to terms with the fact that the people around you don't "get it," but I have some good news for you.

2. You don't need them to understand

Just because someone doesn’t understand your journey doesn’t mean that your journey is invalid, unimportant, or not real. Hear what I’m going to say to you here, because you aren’t told this by the people around you, yet it is so very true.

Your journey is valid. Your journey is the most important. And your journey was and still is very much real. Someone else’s opinion does not change or define you, your journey, or your life. They don’t have that kind of power over you. They simply don’t.

We don’t need them to understand. Yes, it’s nice to feel as though we are understood, it gives us a sense of validation when someone says “I get it” after you pour your heart out. However, people will sometimes fail us, they will misunderstand us, and they will push to get things back to “normal.” This is a fact that you need to come to terms with.

But remember this. You don’t need them to “get it” in order for you to start moving forward with your life.

3. Release expectations

Once you accept that the people around you simply aren’t capable of understanding what you've been through, you’ll be able to release all expectations you have of them on this subject. This doesn't mean that you start expecting the worst from them, nor does it give them a free card to start treating you poorly. It simply means you let go of trying to control their thoughts/actions so that you're better able to focus on your own.

You now have permission to stop trying to get them to understand what you went through. Yes, it's important to talk about it, to vent, to get some counseling, but do it free of the expectation that you will leave that conversation feeling "understood" and simply appreciate it for what it was...a listening ear.

No one is perfect, people say dumb things, words come out wrong, and sometimes people are just jerks. They are human. Plus, they just don't "get it."

4. Forgive them

It’s an understatement to say that reading another person’s cancer journey helped me throughout my own. It did more than just “help”. It healed. I found that there’s a level of healing that needs to take place in a cancer patients (and survivors) life that can only come from being known, seen, heard, and understood in full by fellow survivors. That’s the purpose of this book…for you. #affiliate

Ugh, I know. Forgiving is hard. If you've read my cancer journey in A Cancer Made Mess, you know that I definitely had some forgiving to do myself. It was hard. But please believe me when I tell you: if you don’t forgive, you’ll stay stuck. The purpose of you reading this is to learn how to move forward, therefore this is yes, a hard step, but oh so important. I’ve had countless incidents where I had to forgive someone for being insensitive to my cancer journey. It wasn’t easy. It took me way longer than it should have. A couple took years actually if I'm being honest. But, I wish someone would have told me what I’m about to tell you so that I would just get past it and move forward.

In order to move forward, you need to start focusing on you. And stop focusing on them. That might sound a bit selfish, but hear me out. When you're harboring unforgiveness, you are filled with negative emotions and thoughts towards them. At this point in your life, you need to be surrounded with positivity and it starts on the inside. If you're filled with resentment, there is no room for the positive. If you're filled with thoughts about them and what they did wrong, you have no room for you and your growth. You have to decide to purposefully pull out the negative root of unforgiveness in order to process, cope, and move on.

Yes, they said and did some things that felt unfair and insensitive, but remember. They don't understand. Have you ever said or did something that came off as insensitive that left someone else feeling misunderstood? I know I have. And I hope I didn't scar them for life. I hope that they were able to forgive me.

But what if the person did it intentionally? What if the person knew full well what they were doing when they made that snide remark? What if that person was trying to hurt you? Well, this is a bit harder to forgive, yet it’s necessary. In these types of situations, I try to realize that they have their own issues and I was just an outlet for whatever they have going on in their own lives. Hurting people hurt people. Just as you have issues that no one fully understands, they have issues too. Different issues, but still issues. So in order to forgive, I take a step back, detach from my hurt feelings, and look at it from the outside. They are messed up. I am too. They messed up. I have too. That makes forgiveness a bit more achievable.

Remember, forgiveness doesn’t make what they did okay. It simply releases the power the incident has over your life. The incident no longer controls your emotions and thoughts because you have put it to bed. You are free from it so that you can move forward without anything holding you back. Your future is too big to let something (anything) hold you back.

5. Seek the only one who truly understands

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I had a sweet friend gift me a bible and a devotional. Up until then, I misunderstood God as condemning and cruel. Thankfully, her lovely gift changed that. It not only showed me God’s true identity as a loving caring Father, but also renewed my mind and restored a hope within me. Both things, I desperately needed. This book is a wonderful resource to help you do the same. #affiliate

The cancer community can and does offer support that you will find no where else, however even still, your journey is unique as there is only one you. Even if they’ve gone through something similar, it’s still not your story. There are differences and therefore your journey is unique only to you. And because of this fact, no one can ever fully relate, except Jesus. God is the only one who knows what you’ve been through. Who has been there every minute of every day. Who understands every single emotion, fear, thought, pain, and struggle you have and are still currently going through. Go to Him. Listen to some worship music, download some devotional apps, listen to some good sermons, read your bible. Spend some time with Him and he will give you the comfort you can find no where else.

Do you have an incident where you felt misunderstood in your cancer journey by someone close to you? What happened? Tell me in the comments below.


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Hi! I'm Jessica

I'm a Stage IV cancer survivor, author, and creative business owner, on a mission to help those who are struggling with the devastation of a cancer diagnosis...



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