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Why we hide

We are taking a break from The Platinum Rule® this week so we can talk about an issue that came up after Anne's interview on the Myrtle Mitton Show in which she described her 2020 experience with breast cancer.

The show was aired on February 5, 2021, and stimulated a flurry of emails asking Anne why she hadn't told people sooner, especially when she is the one who says that "experience has exponential value when it is shared?"

Now, I know that she sent a regular email update on her progress, but I didn't know how many people were receiving (and reading) it. The number of people who emailed to say they were unhappy that they had not been told (so they could offer support and encouragement) suggests that these updates did not reach everyone who was interested in knowing.

So, why did Anne hide it?

"First of all, I want you to know how much I appreciate the outpouring of caring and concern. I didn't mean to "hide it" exactly. In my family, we have a code of conduct that bad news is to be delivered in person - not over the phone and not by mail. Certainly, I would not share bad news over social media - or even by email without having a conversation with the recipient first.

"In the 10 days between making the decision and having the surgery, I contacted members of my large family and those closest to me. But I didn't get to everyone. And after the surgery, it was a long time before I was up to having a conversation.

"Looking back, I can see that I also had some fear that no one would care."

"Certainly, I know I am not the first, and sadly, I won't be the last woman to be stricken with breast cancer. The type of breast cancer I have is very treatable and the survival outlook is very good.

"After the surgery, I did have conversations with people who were missed earlier; I offered to send them my updates by email. Then came the day when someone I thought would care, declined to receive my news saying that her inbox was already overflowing and she would pass. That was a kick in the head!

"There were times when I wished I had not been as open as I was with some people; had not been so flippant about what was happening. If I had to do it again, I would be more circumspect. Having shared so much detail has led to some very awkward conversations which could have been avoided.

"As time passed, I worried that people would think I was somehow compromised; less competent, less capable, and less employable. In fact, as my body healed, I went into a spiral of self-doubt: What am I good at? What is special about me? What do I do better than others? What do I know? Who would want to hire me? And that was a pretty bleak place to be!

I was stunned to hear this news. "How awful, Anne. How did you escape?"

"It wasn't easy. Those thoughts were paralyzing. And you can imagine I wasn't about to share them with anyone! At least not while I was in that bleak place.

"I am the person who lifts others up when they are feeling discouraged, who offers encouragement and acknowledgment, who reminds others of their value and purpose. I make them laugh so the endorphins will perk them up and I remind others to keep breathing!

"I don't see myself as the person who needs uplifting, encouraging, comforting. Except that I am that person, too. Anyone can find themselves in the valley of the shadow of doubt and every one of us needs support at some time in our lives!

"I am grateful to those who saw me struggling and reached out to remind me of the value that I bring to the world, to comfort and encourage me. With your help, I was able to get up out of the ditch, dust myself off, adjust my trajectory and carry on!"

I hope we can all learn from Anne's story. There are so many messages here. If you see someone struggling, give them a hand, offer a kind word, encouragement. If you are struggling, ask for help. And, please know that you are NOT defined by an illness or an injury.


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