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Mormons are generally happy people. We are known for our big hearts, bright smiles, and willingness to bring potato salad to anyone in need. But what about when life breaks down our cheery disposition? Do we allow ourselves to feel deep human emotion, or do we feel pressure to put on a smiling face even when the world is crumbling around us?

When my husband was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer at age 28, I was confronted with a whirlwind of emotions. I was devastated, frustrated, confused, heartbroken, anxious, and terrified. The only cancer patients under 60 that I knew were from stories, and they centered on being brave, positive, and happy despite hardships. And yet, here I was, sobbing in bed. I could barely make out my husband’s silhouette through the tears. I didn’t feel brave, positive, or happy.

Enter another emotion: guilt.

I concluded that I was doing it all wrong. I had this challenging trial, dramatic enough to describe in firesides and stake conference, but my response was far from inspiring. Who would be inspired by this puddle of tears? Who would want to hear the story of the woman who screamed, “I hate cancer!” into her pillow without an ounce of grace or dignity? Why didn’t I respond with optimism and strength? Was I lacking faith?

From the moment of diagnosis, I never stopped praying. I didn’t doubt that God heard me, and my testimony was firm. Why didn’t I have the emotional fortitude that I heard so much about? Why couldn’t I smile through every chemotherapy appointment and shrug off a day full of CT scans, radiation treatments, and blood transfusions? Why didn’t I feel the cheerful attitude that Mormons are “supposed” to radiate?

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