'These three smiles hide a secret pain: I am dying.'

Have you ever smiled before, through pain? You know, that fake sort of smile, to make everyone believe that you are OK?

I have. For almost five years now, and it has become more common in the last couple months.

You see, back in December 2013, my whole world came crashing down when I was delivered those three words no person should ever have to hear: you have cancer. I was only 31 years old and I had just been diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer.

In November 2016, I was told that my cancer had returned.

Three months ago, in May 2018 I had my yearly colonoscopy and my six monthly CT scan and was told that my cancer was stable.

However, on 11 July 2018, I found out that my cancer had metastasised to my bladder. I had gone from Stage 3 to Stage 4 in just two and a half months.

“How long do I have left?” I so bluntly asked, however that sort of question in the cancer world is a bit like “how long is a piece of string”. No one really knows.

All I know, is that if you have seen me smile lately, it is hiding pain… a whole lot of pain.

Physical pain because my body feels like it’s shutting down, nothing seems to be working properly anymore. Not a day goes by where my stomach doesn’t hurt, or where I’m doubled over and cannot stand straight, or I’m in bed all day and still feel exhausted.

Plus the psychological pain because I have to face my own mortality at only 36 years of age. I know I am dying and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Having zero control over what my body does or doesn’t do, is the most frustrating thing right now. I so desperately want to be making happy memories with my family and friends whilst I still can, but my body isn’t letting me.

I have never had children… cancer stripped that away from me.

I have never experienced true love before.

I will die having never experienced motherhood, marriage or “happy families”.

Yet I still smile.

stage 3 bowel cancer
"On 11 July, I found out that my cancer had metastasised to my bladder." Image: supplied.

Because I still want to look normal. I don’t play the “woe is me” card or try to garner any sympathy, in fact, I want to be treated as normal as possible, and my way of achieving this is by smiling... because if someone is smiling, they’re happy and OK right? Wrong.

The moral of my story is to tell you that not everyone who smiles is happy.

Not everyone who smiles is OK.

It’s a facade to hide pain and suffering for many, and I am one of them.

Sherie Hagger is an Adelaide woman who is passionate about helping cancer sufferers feel less alone by sharing her story. You can read more from Sherie on her blog and her Facebook page.