© 2019 by Jason Elbinger

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Being Vulnerable

My goal in these blog posts is to be vulnerable. I’m revealing my naked self without fear. That used to be hard for me, but my vulnerability has helped me connect with others and not be alone or isolated. Being vulnerable used to give me panic attacks, because it meant revealing parts of myself I had severe shame or embarrassment about.

When I first started experiencing symptoms that led me to get a colonoscopy, I felt shame. Shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefor unworthy of love and belonging — something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection” [from Brene Brown, see link at bottom]. But that shame only lasted two days, until I remembered that none of this is my fault, and I’m not flawed.

Before I continue, I want to reply to a since-deleted comment on my Facebook. Someone grumbled that he hated that people share their private personal illnesses on Facebook. This individual complained that people beg for money on GoFundMe. Here’s what they should know: I’m writing this blog because colorectal cancer is very common for men fifty years and older. The earlier a physician detects it, the higher the rate of effective treatment. It’s my duty to talk about what is happening, to help to remove the same stigma I felt about blood coming out of my rectum when I pooped. Maybe I wouldn't need the chemotherapy, radiation, and ileostomy if I sought medical attention immediately. Sharing my experience will, I hope, motivate other men to have a colonoscopy. Trust me, the procedure was simple, and they sedated me for it.

As far GoFundMe goes, sick people don’t want to have to ask for financial help. I don’t think I’ll need it. Imagine the desperation individuals must feel to resort to pleading for money! But get this: About 70% of bankruptcies are because of medical bills. It’s not because of the patient’s negligence that they run out of money; It is the defect of a horrible insurance system and labor laws that favor corporations and businesses over the needs of the people. We have a poor social safety net.

My wife often writes about her illnesses on Facebook, and I used to get mad at her for it. This is too personal, I told her; it showed weakness. She would tell me she knew her audience and was raising awareness about her maladies. Now I get it.

Having cancer is scary, but I’m okay with the diagnosis;  I’m not too worried, because I’ve accepted it, which has allowed me to be active in my recovery.  Maybe I’ve become nonchalant. It is weird to have people praying for me. I appreciate it, though.

Guys, if you’re still reading this and are over fifty... get a colonoscopy. The worst part of the whole procedure is drinking the foul tasting solution needed to clear the bowels. You will poop like mad until all you got left is a yellow liquid that squirts out of your ass like pee. But don’t let that stop you.


Brene Brown on shame https://brenebrown.com/articles/2013/01/14/shame-v-guilt/