The “Others”: Finding Belonging When You Feel Like You Don’t

I recently received an email from a large cancer organization asking cancer patients and survivors to fill out a survey. I am incredibly passionate about supporting the cancer community, so as soon as I had a moment, I sat down and began the survey.

Each one starts fairly similar: Name, age, gender, etc. After I answered these basic questions and clicked “next”, this question appeared:

“Which type of cancer were you diagnosed with? (Please check the box(es) that apply to you.)”

As I scrolled down the long, alphabetically-ordered list of cancers to select, I finally arrived to the “S’s”. I continued to scroll. And scroll. And scroll. Until I found myself at the “T’s”. “Sarcoma Cancer” was not listed as an option to select.

As I made my way to the bottom of the list, I did find that there was a box for me to check so I could still participate:

“Other: ___________”

Nicole looking very seriously away from the camera pondering her thoughts.

This is a selection and title I have come to know all too well, as this is far from the first time that this has happened in the last 2 years since sarcoma became a part of my life. Being diagnosed with a rare disease can make you feel like an outcast even within the group that you’re supposed to belong in. This category is known as:

“The Others.”

And honestly, it can feel kind of lonely. There is a desire of wanting to belong that is placed within each of us. Not having a category of your own, even if it’s not desirable in the first place, can feel incredibly isolating. We want to be unique, special, and understood and at the same time we don’t want to be too far removed that we feel isolated on an island by ourselves.

I paused for a moment and reflected on conversations I have had with people from all different walks of life: church, work, bible study, the gym, and cancer centers. Most anyone that I’ve had a deep conversation with has shared with me that they feel lonely or like they don’t belong at times. They have felt like an “other”.

As I thought more about these conversations and looked at my own situation, I realized this:

The “others” are simply “one other” fighting battles and giants trying to make it through day-to-day. I am not alone. Neither are they, and neither are you.

Nicole on a dock at Lake Woodlands staring out into the water with her dress fanned back.

Whether it’s cancer, family issues, disabilities, infertility, financial situations, physical appearances, an illness, insecurities, or anything that makes us feel like an “other”, there is a place for you and me in this world. Although these things may be a piece of us, they do not define us. There is love, empathy, support, and understanding all around us. We have all felt alone, but that doesn’t mean we actually ARE alone.

I believe this is a huge reason that my faith grew exponentially during cancer treatment and in survivorship: No matter what circumstances happened to me or around me, I always had my faith to lean into. That has been my rock and my foundation in these times of feeling like an outcast; the reminder of my identity (Psalm 18:2). Even though navigating this is still challenging (hence this blog post), I am reminded through each hard moment Whose I am.

Photo of Nicole from the ground up with her dress flowing.

As I was finishing the survey, I realized that I would prefer to stay an “other”.  Because the moment that “Sarcoma Cancer” becomes an official box to check on this survey, it means that more adults/children have been diagnosed and it has become more common. And I never want to see that happen.

We have been given an opportunity with the journey that God has laid before us. The “others” can be a voice for one another; shining a bright light into dark places, bringing hope and inspiration to those around them to share their story, and discovering the truth of encouragement to proclaim, “I am not alone.”

Portrait of Nicole

Your place is important. And what you have to offer is something that ONLY you can bring to this world. You are more than the thing that makes you feel like an “other”. Your life is worth living. You are not alone. And most of all, you are loved.

Maybe today you need a helping hand to pull you up the mountain that you’re climbing. Or maybe you find yourself in a place where you can be the one to reach out your hand to pull one of the others up. We are in this together and you belong.

Whatever “survey box” you are checking off today that is titled “other”, just know that box wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t an important place for your unique journey to take flight!

God bless you!

Sparkle on,

Nicole, An “Other” who loves you!

Portrait of Wes and Nicole

Have you struggled finding belonging due to past or present experiences in your life? You do belong and your life has abundant purpose! I’ve felt like an “other” so many times so believe me, you are not alone! I truly believe there is healing and an incredible journey up ahead for you. Please share your thoughts in the comments or message me if you’d like prayer today!

8 comments

  1. You are such an inspiration! Your words are uplifting, thoughtful, & precise. I miss not seeing you but so glad for your health & wellbeing! Good Luck in Texas and all your future endeavors. Know you are Loved! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I too have had sarcoma and was treated at MD Anderson. And now I have it again and will have more surgery. It’s very tiny, so is not terrible. But it popped up again after two years in remission. The thing about sarcoma being rare is that (1) fewer doctors have expertise with it and (2) less research is possibly being done on it. I was contacted this week by the research department at MD Anderson to agree to permit tissue from my upcoming surgery to be used for research. Of course I said yes. Another interesting thing I discovered regarding sarcoma possibly being genetic, my great-grandmother’s sister died of sarcoma at age 50 in the early 1900s. Since sarcoma is rare, I have to wonder if maybe it is indeed genetic. Besides all that, I just trust in the Lord that He has a purpose for everything, so there is a purpose for my going through this stuff. I just rest in the peace of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sharon, I am so sorry to hear of the recurrence. I’m thankful you caught it at a smaller size although it is not ideal in any sense to have it. What a blessing you are being to others by allowing them to use tissue as research! You are making huge changes for the sarcoma community! Thank you for doing that! I have learned that there are some strands of sarcoma that are genetic. I am so sorry to hear that you lost your great-grandmother to it. Have you asked about genetic counseling? I had testing done and they did share that mine was not genetic but it’s definitely worth looking into! God has your life in His hands! I believe that 100%! Praying for rest in the peace of Christ over you! Thank you for sharing and for all that you are doing! God bless you!

      Like

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