Fighting Cancer and Talking About It

fighting cancerPutting your feelings about life, cancer treatment and the dreadfully taboo topic of death out on the Web is awkward. Revealing your emotions for all to see feels like being naked in the town square during the mid-day rush.

I didn’t ask for cancer and I’d happily have skipped the treatment. In fact, I often joke that cancer has done me no harm, but the treatment just about killed me. Cancer treatment took me to the edge of my endurance, while, to date, cancer itself has had little impact.

There is s stupid truth to what I am saying: at the time of my diagnosis I seemed to be in perfect health. No symptoms, no illness at all. Except for one small (well about egg-sized actually) lump in my neck. I was still dancing a couple of nights a week. I was feeling great.

After a few weeks of the double whammy of both chemo and radiation treatment though, that was far from the case. And by the end of the treatment, well words simply fail me.

Anyway, I digress. What I really want to talk about is… about… talking about things.

Ways to Die

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m not exactly sure why I launched this blog. I just hope it does someone some good to hear they are not alone in their struggle with cancer. I’m not really a believer in any cancer fighting diet or any of the other snake oil beliefs. I don’t have any sure-fire cures for cancer. So, I have no great agenda to push here.

I wasn’t sure who would be interested in reading it – if anyone – or who to distribute it to. So, I started with those people I knew – my business contacts.

Now fighting cancer doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with my day job as a lawyer. So that may not have been the best place to start. Still, cancer is a huge part of my life these days. It is part of the new post-treatment me.

Cancer may be part of my life, I just don’t want it to be part of my death.

I know death is inevitable, but I often recall the old joke about the three men sentenced to death. The judge gave each of them a choice on how the sentence would be carried out and the means of death.

The first said he came from a proud naval family and he chose drowning.

The next said he came from a proud military family and chose a firing squad.

The third said he came from a long line of peaceful people and he wanted to die of old age. 

If I must depart then, I too, want to opt for old age to snuff me out ever-so-gracefully.

Inappropriate Content

I sent a mail-out to all my business contacts telling them about the blog. It was a bold move in some ways, but I know there is way too much cancer out there. I know most of us have crossed its path in one way or another. There are so many out there fighting throat cancer, fighting cervical cancer, fighting breast cancer or any one of the dozens of other places it can hit you.

I wasn’t wrong. I got a number of deeply heart-felt responses. Clearly it touched something in a number of people.

As expected, some people were not interested. A few people unsubscribed from the mailing list. Nearly all of the handful that unsubscribed were people I’d swapped business cards with at some event in the distant past. Not recent contacts, not friends.

One person that unsubscribed did surprise me though. It was not that he wasn’t interested in the content. That is fine. I accept that cancer is not the latest trend topic on Google and it absolutely lacks appeal. I rarely want to read anything on the topic myself. So, I get all that.

It was the way he unsubscribed.

We’ve worked together on the board of a company and have had regular interaction over a long period. He didn’t just unsubscribe (fair enough), but he asked to be taken off the list because it was “inappropriate content”.

Talking about anything personal in a business setting may be considered inappropriate to some. I just am glad I have a many other business colleagues who are ‘real’ people with parents, partners, kids, siblings and who are subject to all the vagaries that life can throw at us. I do look for people like-that to work with and to be friends with. Real people, good people, caring people.

I took exception to the ‘inappropriate content’ tag though because it is a denial of reality.

What is really inappropriate is cancer.

Cancer cuts deeply and devastatingly into so many lives. The pain is very real and it is simply everywhere.

In just the last couple of weeks I had so many people confide their pain.  I was told (within a four-day period) that three people I know were diagnosed with cancer. Three in just four days! I wrote about my reaction to such disgusting news in Bad News Really Does Come in Threes.

The Reality of Fighting Cancer

I have been moved by the very sincere response I have had to the blog. A number of people spoke to me about a friend or family member battling cancer or who recently lost the fight.

One former colleague told me of the death of a teenager she was very close to.

Another told me she has lost three friends to cancer in the last year.

Yet another, has a mother diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer and her poor mother can’t cope with the pain and has tried to commit suicide.

The family has the double anguish of coping with the ordeal of helplessly watching her fighting cancer and all the conflicting emotions of a loved one trying to end the pain in a very messy way. After her last suicide attempt the family asked the ambulance officers if they could just let her go. The ambulance crew understood their anguish, but had to comply with the law and revive her.

It really does make you wonder about the insanity of our current laws and whether The Right to Die is Our Most Fundamental Right.

Although he will never read it, I do have something to say to my unsubscriber:

Yes, cancer is inappropriate.

It sucks.

I hate what it does to lives, to families, to loved ones.

I hate what it has done and may do, yet again, in my life.

I, perhaps inappropriately, loathe it.

 Photo by Katrina Chow

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