A Cancer Pity Party

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

A woman with cancer recently told me that she was planning a pity party.

She explained that, “Cancer just sucks and I want to get together with my friends to acknowledge that it sucks.”

Sounds reasonable.

Those of us with cancer tend to put on brave faces.

But there are times that we grieve for the losses that accompany every cancer diagnosis. Those losses can range from the disruption of our daily rhythms to impending death.

Why not have a party – or ritual – to recognize the impact that cancer has had?

Most grieving processes involve rituals. Some are to acknowledge the pain, and some are to say, “It’s time to move on.”

My friend’s pity party is designed to do both. She wants to express her sadness over losing the carefree life she had before cancer. By doing so, she’ll be better able to accept the life she has now.

Many people deal with similar issues through counseling and support groups. It’s often referred to as “adjusting to the new normal.” We all do it in our own way and on our own timetable.

But I think having a party is a splendid idea.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal. 

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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