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  • Writer's pictureShruti

Sorry, Sir, “Damsel in Distress” Just Isn’t Working for Me Anymore

If you walk into the hospital room of a child with cancer, I’m sure you’d see all the things you would expect to be there – IVs, medical charts, beloved toys and evidence of amazing caretakers who rarely leave the child’s side. You might breeze over the drawings on the wall – after all, a child living in the hospital doesn’t have a fridge to proudly display them all. You’d be amiss in not taking a closer look. Look for a monster or some other unrecognizable creature amongst the pictures of houses and family and friends and pets. Look for the picture of the cancer.

Children are often taught to visualize their diseases, to draw a picture and stick it on the wall so they have a mental image of the enemy they’re fighting. I don’t know why they don’t tell adults to do this. Maybe they think we’ll be offended that it’s too juvenile. Maybe they assume that we’re old enough to deal with our pain on our own, I don’t know. I, for one, think it’s a very useful tool.

To me, my illness, and my pain, is like a dragon. The kind of irritating one in fairy tales that is always defeated but never killed. The kind that invariably returns to torment the village again another day. The kind that nobody can seem to get rid of. The problem with a chronic illness, I’ve found, is that after you’ve been fighting that dragon over and over and over and over … it’s the same battle and it’s gotten old. How many times can you fight the same battle? After all, it’s not like you’ve got a new weapons arsenal or some gloriously juicy intel on the dragon’s inner workings to use against it.

It’s so easy to get frustrated with fighting the dragon that we go, “ok fine, I’m just going to sit back and let somebody figure out how to get rid of this monstrous thing and come save me from it’s evil ways.” It’s often easy to fall into a damsel in distress type syndrome. I sure did.

… but I’ve come to realize that this doesn’t really make sense. After all, it’s me against my disease. My dragon isn’t attacking from some cave somewhere – it lives inside my own walls, it turns my own best defences against me.  Damsel in distress makes for a good fairy tale (who wouldn’t want to be the beautiful princess without the moon face and weight gain courtesy of our favorite <cough> champion of choice, Sir Prednisone himself), but it doesn’t make for a good reality. If we stop fighting, the dragon wins. Because we’ve forgotten that there’s one thing the dragon can’t touch – and that’s our emotional state. We can fight the physical attack with the physical medications, but our mind is our own and therein lies our advantage.

So I’ve decided that I’m not the damsel in distress in my fairy tale. Instead, I get to be the noble, marauding knight in shining armour. Historical clichéd roles be damned, this is MY fantasy! So off I go, mental shield up, sword at the ready (well maybe a plastic one, because I think trying to swing around the heavy metal ones would probably make my joints pretty angry) to fight the dragon that pervades my existence.

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