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:
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Nicole, An “Other” who loves you!
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!