Fear can stop you from speaking out. And remaining silent is much easier than taking the stand and speaking up about a certain topic.

People will question your reasons for raising issues and wanting to talk about your experiences and/or opinions. Some will encourage you and some may sway you to remain silent.

I have personally questioned whether or not I should talk about my experience as a survivor of childhood cancer. And at times I have wondered why I should even bother talking about it at all. Why should I? It would be so much easier to remain quiet and not speak out. But then I start thinking about one or more of the issues that are affecting me and my thoughts snowball into the many topics and issues that can affect survivors of childhood cancer and then I can’t help but want to talk about it.

Yes, writing about my experience can be satisfying – in the sense of a weight being lifted. And writing – like any art medium – is a form of therapy. And I believe that it does help me to cope, particularly in hard times when circumstances can seem unbearable. I also enjoy reading a variety of different genres and find that writing my own crime fiction can be helpful, as it is something completely unrelated to my own situation. And it is actually fun (although sometimes very frustrating … lol, editing and rewriting, but still fun). I do very much enjoy it and writing fiction distracts me from other things, providing a temporary escape into another world where I don’t need to think about my own problems.

I am a huge fan of the television show ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and found one particular episode’s quotes quite inspiring and very applicable to my circumstances at the time (and it still is). If you are not familiar with the series, the main character, Meredith Grey, usually begins and ends the episode with a voice over narrative that plays over the first and last scenes.

The Sound of Silence (season 12, episode 9)

‘In group settings, men are 75% more likely to speak up than women. And when a woman does speak up, it’s statistically probable her male counterparts will either interrupt her, or speak over her. It’s not because they’re rude, it’s science. The female voice is scientifically proven to be more difficult for a male brain to register. What does this mean? It means, in this world, where men are bigger, stronger, faster, if you’re not ready to fight, the silence will kill you.’

‘Don’t let fear keep you quiet. You have a voice. So use it. Speak up. Raise your hands. Shout your answers. Make yourself heard. Whatever it takes. Just find your voice and when you do, fill the damn silence.’

Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy

But what do you do when you are discouraged to speak up?

On one occasion when I was visiting a clinical psychologist at a long term follow up clinic, I had a few health concerns that were bothering me at the time and I told him that I was planning on writing a book about surviving childhood cancer.

His instant response was, ‘Why?’ said with an underlying tone of, why would you want to do that?

This stumped me, and for a moment I thought that I was wrong for wanting to talk about my experience. I replied, ‘So that I can share my story,’ and then changed the subject to avoid the awkwardness that I was feeling.

I didn’t go into further details about my writing plans with him at the time. And I found it rather odd that as a professional who talks to people for a living that he didn’t encourage me to talk to others about my experience, as if it were a dark subject matter. That I shouldn’t talk about surviving cancer in any negative way.

I don’t believe that he meant any harm in questioning my reason, but I still found it discouraging.

I almost felt as though ‘I’ was not qualified to talk about surviving childhood cancer. What could I possibly know about a subject that doctors and other health professionals hadn’t already researched and published in medical journals.

Who am I to speak out about this?

Only someone who has lived through the experience of childhood cancer and its treatment; then years of ongoing medical tests, long-term side effects (both known and unknown), plus the actual emotional trauma and roller-coaster of life as a survivor of childhood cancer.

For a long time we have only heard from medical professionals and the parents of sick children, but not from the child themselves. Yes, this is different now, but it can still seem that some survivors are remaining silent. Some just don’t want to talk about it and some may be too scared to reach out for help, or not know where to get help. Unable to link their health concerns to their childhood cancer and/or treatment. And not know if they are alone in their circumstances.

If you have a current health concern or want answers to questions regarding your medical history I encourage you to be persistent and continue to ask questions and ask for relevant tests. If necessary you may need to find a new doctor and, if so, ask around for recommendations. Then if you are still not satisfied get a second or third opinion, or ask for a referral to a specialist. Your health is important, both physically and emotionally. So trust your instincts and find the answers that you need.

The topic of ‘speaking up’ can apply to anyone. I am predominantly referring to the health of survivors of childhood cancer. But this post can be relevant to anyone and not just health concerns. If you are concerned about any issue don’t be afraid to speak up about it. Do your research, prepare ahead, ask questions and be persistent. 

You can speak up and ask questions, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Take Meredith’s advice, and don’t let fear keep you quiet!

Recommended Reading:

Tara Moss – Speaking Out & The Fictional Woman

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