When I was growing up I always had short hair. My mom was a big fan of my hairdo and thought that I was the cutest, so did other friends and family. I was so young that I didn’t really have an opinion about how my hair was done or what I looked like, all I cared about was being outside and playing.
In the fourth grade I started noticing things that other kids were saying and sometimes adults. I remember distinctively an experience when I was at the drinking fountain at school and a boy (I even remember his name), someone I had gone to school with for years, came up behind me and said loud enough for his friends to hear, “are you a boy or a girl?” I remember that clear as day. It was hurtful and he clearly knew who I was and that I was a girl. I never wanted to hear those words again yet I can replay that day in my mind over and over again.
Bullying is so real today as it has been for hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact it’s so much worse, it’s being perfected. Now that there is social media, texting, and email people can laugh and make fun of others from miles away and these things often go viral. Who ever came up with the whole “sticks and stones,” thing was lying. Words won’t only affect someone’s emotions, but can cause serious distress and sometimes destruction in people’s lives.
So why are we talking about bullying on a cancer blog? Here’s why. After going through cancer or a life altering experience we change. We could be the most confident person in the world; never had self esteem problems, always been comfortable in our own skin, even when people say something mean or awful to us. But after going through something so HUGE like cancer all of that confidence can easily be taken away. We might find ourselves susceptible to hurt feelings or being easily offended. That is OK. We can’t be strong all of the time.
Maybe you lost your hair, you gained or lost weight, you have new scars, and everything else that comes with having cancer. You have been put through the ringer. “How are you feeling?” “How are you?” Everyone asks. You’re trying to figure out who you are; you’re trying to find the beauty in yourself again. These feelings are OK. They are understandable and other people know how you’re feeling and they have experienced those same emotions.
So when you see people who have no hair, scars, have a limp, are in a wheelchair, missing teeth, or WHATEVER…don’t point and laugh, don’t take a picture, don’t call attention, don’t talk ill of them. Love them, smile, say hello, and if you can’t do that…simply walk away. Everyone has a story, everyone is going through life with their own trials and difficulties and we need each other to get through them, so hug someone! Tell them you care about them.
How do we fix this problem? It all starts in our homes. We have the opportunity to teach our children how to love one another and that talking ill about someone or laughing at anyone is hurtful. We need to stand up for what’s right and be examples to our friends and family. I’m positive every person has been affected by bullying in one way or another. I’ve never had cancer, I don’t know what it feels like to go through such a rigorous journey and drastic change, like losing my hair or having a mastectomy, but I do know and understand that words hurt and are often times unforgettable.
So let’s be accepting of each other and show each other that we care and to all of you, may you feel loved today and everyday. We are all unique and beautiful in our own ways.