The process of grieving after a loved one has died from cancer can be an extremely difficult one, and there are a lot of ways in which the people around can help or hurt along the way. For Bonnie Chapman, whose mom Beth Chapman died of throat cancer at the age of 51, one of the big challenges has been people who claim that Bonnie isn’t actually Beth’s daughter.
In an Instagram story, Bonnie asked where the rumor had come from that she might not be her mother’s daughter. Responding to a social media post that said “actually [bonnie] is their granddaughter but they have been her parents since her mom, their daughter passed away [hearts],” by asking “Anyone know where this rumor came from?”READ MORE
She then posted an old photo of herself leaning on her mom’s back in a loving posture, eating what appears to be a chicken wing. She wrote beneath the photo, “Never thought someone would accused [sic] me of not being my mom’s daughter.”
When another fan sent her an explanation of where the rumor may have come from, stemming back to an early season of “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” Bonnie explained the possible confusion, “My sister (Barbara) has a son who was in our care, not a daughter. That son is travis. I am the only daughter dog and Beth had together. Now let’s move on.”
Bonnie also posted a snapshot of an article in Popculture, which described her as Beth’s stepdaughter. “I’m not a stepdaughter either, literally Garry and I are the only ones they had together. I know there’s a lot of us.”
In order to explain why she was so upset about the posts, Bonnie wrote a long message on her story that talked about her grief having lost her mom, and the way outsiders have a tendency to find ways to invalidate her feelings. She said she views her story as a way of standing up, “I’m not gonna let some rumor minimize my grief.”
And she also explained that if her mom were alive, she wouldn’t tolerate the misinformation, “for those wondering why I’m talking about this, it’s because my mom wouldn’t let this happen. She’d call up every news source that got anything wrong and correct it immediately. If this happened while she was still here it’d be hell on earth for anyone with incorrect information.”
Bonnie also included some posts about being a strong woman, who stands up for what she believes and says how she feels. In one photo, the back of a woman’s T-shirt reads, “Protect black, asian, muslim, latinx, disabled, trans, poor women.”
Another photo included a social media post from the popular blogger “Feminist Next Door,” @emrazz, which talked about female strength by pointing out the paradoxes in a common defense for sexual assault, “And by the way if asking for consent “ruins the mood” it’s because you were the only one in the fucking mood. Literally.”
And she posted a short poem about the type of self respect she wishes women were taught in our culture, instead of competition and shame.
Bonnie has been outspoken about her anxiety for a long time, and talked about it during her mom’s cancer journey. In this story, Bonnie reposted a photo of the inside of a journal. The writing explains what’s “hurtful” and what’s “helpful” when trying to support a loved one who is struggling with anxiety.
When Beth was placed in a medically induced coma at the end of June, Bonnie bravely documented on Instagram Stories her trip from Colorado to her mother’s deathbed. Just two weeks prior, before her mother stood at death’s door, she had told her social media followers she couldn’t return to Hawaii because of “too much anxiety” and traffic. Then, after facing her fears and rushing to Hawaii, she had to confront Internet dopplegangers pretending to be her as well as cruel profiteers seeking to make a buck off Beth’s good name with unauthorized T-shirts (Bonnie condemned them).
More recently, Bonnie was forced to confront terrifying reptilian dreams that her fans and followers clearly think are directly related to her fears from losing her beloved mother.
A week ago, Bonnie observed on Twitter that “I had a dream I was stuck in a pool with alligators, how was your sleep?”
I had a dream I was stuck in a pool with alligators, how was your sleep?
— Bonnie Chapman (@Bonniejoc) July 6, 2019
Fending off these gators was just the later challenge for Bonnie, who’s complained in the past that she suffers from a great deal of anxiety and stress. As Bonnie herself has noted, being the child of a cancer patient can be really difficult, and navigating family relationships during that time extremely hard. Still, Bonnie has responded with openness and questioning.
Her mother’s death came just a short time after Bonnie bravely announced on Instagram her pansexuality, and said that her parents were very supportive of her.
“For the past seven years, I’ve kept kind of a big secret to myself. I’m pansexual, now I’m sure the term is familiar with some people,” Chapman wrote. “It means to me I fall in love with personalities, rather than a gender.”
Pansexuality is considered more inclusive than bisexuality, in that pansexual individuals can be attracted to cisgender, transgender, intersex and androgynous people.
Bonnie’s parents assuaged her fears that she wouldn’t be accepted. “I haven’t told many people until now. I was so scared when I told my parents in November, but they welcomed me with open arms,” Bonnie continued.
And she’s thanking everyone else who helped support her too.”I appreciate those who knew and kept it a secret, thank you for letting me take my time. I truly am so thankful to you all.”
“If you are in anyway upset about this, please feel free to unfollow me,” she concluded at the end of the post.
A lot of fans commented to let her know they were there for Bonnie. “You can fall in love with who you want to, no one has the right to judge you,” one follower wrote.
“Girl, you turned into a beautiful young lady, watching you grow up on tv… Don’t worry what others think!!! “GOD LOVES ALL”… I can see your mom and Leland in you, in which other than eye and hair color looks like your Dad… No worries young one spread your wings,” commented another.
Bonnie, celebrated her blossoming sexuality and the support she received from fans in a new post. “To celebrate my first June out of the closet I decided to a simple pride look ❤️ I appreciate the overwhelming support I get til this day, reminds me I have the best people in the world beside me.”
Information about dealing with fear during cancer
For a lot of people, connecting to someone else with cancer can help with some of the difficult emotions that that can come with the diagnosis. For example, anxiety and fear are totally normal reactions to the news of cancer, and acknowledging these emotions can be therapeutic and important to the healing process.
“I think the most important advice I would give to someone who has just received a cancer diagnosis is to find people whom they find as a source of support. To allow themselves to go through all of the different emotional reactions to that news,” said Dr. Susan Parons, Director of the Center for Health Solutions/Center on Child and Family Outcomes at Tufts Medical Center, in a prior interview with SurvivorNet. Dr. Parsons did not comment on this case specifically.
“The anger, the frustration, the fear. The disappointment. Whatever those emotions are, figure out what’s important to you and find those people that can help you realize that.”
Dr. Susan Parons, Director of the Center for Health Solutions/Center on Child and Family Outcomes at Tufts Medical Center on dealing with fear and anxiety after a cancer diagnosis.
In times of frustration, it can be useful to a little bit of direction on specific ways to deal with it. A few of the most common ways to deal with fear and anxiety after a cancer diagnosis, that have helped people in the SurvivorNet community in the past, include:
1. Let your family and close friends know – and let them help. So many cancer survivors tell us they want and need support but are often too preoccupied to make specific requests. Urge those close to you to jump in with whatever practical help they can offer.
2. Keep a journal. It can be extremely cathartic to let those feelings loose on paper. Grab a pen and a nice journal and chronical your different thoughts throughout the day.
3. Join a cancer support group. There are groups in nearly every community offering opportunities to connect with others going through a similar journey. You’ll learn incredibly helpful insight from others who can tell you about what to expect and how to stay strong on tough days.
4. Consider seeing a therapist. Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist so you can discuss your fears and concerns in a safe space. Often, vocalizing your thoughts and feelings rather than internalizing them can provide relief.