Cancer Imposter Syndrome

July 23, 2020

I know we usually reference “imposter syndrome” when we talk about jobs and the fear that you might be exposed as a fraud who fooled their way into the position but I’ve been feeling a different kind of imposter syndrome these last 7 months. I’ve been undergoing treatments for Acute Myeloid Leukemia which I was diagnosed with in december. Technically the cancer was cleared out of my body in January but because of the nature of Leukemia it has a nasty tendency to come back without further treatment. I went through 3 rounds of chemo and then a stem cell transplant all of which required over 2 months of total hospitalization and were not very fun at all. However, in between treatments I looked really normal. Yes I had lost my hair but I could wear a hat and I had lost a ton of weight, but people who saw me immediately thought everything must be alright. I could literally see people sigh with relief when they saw me almost as if they had imagined I would barely be held together. The interesting thing is, some days I feel like I’m barely held together even though I don’t look it. That’s what I’ve decided to call cancer imposter syndrome. I feel like a cancer imposter. People looking at me all the time like I’m normal makes me feel like I never even had cancer even though I’ve gone through hell. People all see me as healthy so I feel like I should be healthy even though I don’t feel that way on the inside. I feel like an imposter because I feel like I should look like I have cancer on the outside to match what I feel on the inside. Then maybe other people would understand what I’m going through a little easier. It’s a really interesting feeling.

Written by Matt Gregg, a UI engineer who lives and works in Minneapolis, MN

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