I’ve faced a lot of fears in my life. My father was mentally ill. My parents divorced when I was 10. My mother wasn’t stable. I went to live with my father and my grandparents. There, I learned to depend on me. Later, I went through my own divorce, the loss of my father, and a bought with thyroid cancer. But, while I was still young, I had an ace in the hole. My older sister was also there. She became my surrogate mother. She attempted to instruct me on life. She tried to explain menstruation to me, but I had already ordered the kit. She expounded on her understanding of sex. I had already read the book. She pushed me to bathe, to comb my hair, to ask before I wore her clothes (which I rarely did), to roll up a quilt and put it between us when we slept (there weren’t many beds at our house), to improve my grades. She encouraged me to work harder in my classes, to be a better basketball player, to be part of her life. In short, she was often my life. I admired her so, and still do.
Fast forward from the late 60’s and early 70’s to 2014. I received a call in December of 2014. The day our business had a company luncheon to celebrate the oncoming Christmas season. This would not be a reason to celebrate. Ovarian cancer was the diagnosis. She was to have surgery within a week. I screamed as I ran through our warehouse. This cannot be happening. I had cancer – thyroid – at 18. I paid the dues for our family. Cancer doesn’t work like that. It is a creeping, stealing, hateful disease. I’m so sick of driving by new cancer facilities. New places to go to get your cancer taken care of. New hospitals. New wards. New types of chemo that will kill every emerging cell in your body – not just the cancer but all new healthy cells as well. That is how chemo works. I hate it so deeply and so purely. Why are we covered up with cancer? Why do we see commercials and new locations and new types of treatment? Why not just get rid of cancer altogether? Think about that.
This is not happening to me. And yet, a visit to the American Cancer Society will tell you that cancer happens to everyone in the family. Really? I’m not the one throwing up, dealing with the pain and the exhaustion. How exactly is it happening to me? Do I sound angry? I’m furious. This is a cat and mouse game. After one series of chemo, you’re announced cured. Until 3 months later, when it’s back…insidiously. Now, how do we deal with the roller coaster emotions of fear, loss, pain, and anger? How do we deal with how much we love our family member? How?
Once a family member tells you he/she has this life threatening disease, everything else becomes so petty.Who cares about your need to be in shape? To lose a few pounds? Or your desire for a new car? Dig deeper, please. On a level such as this one, material gain and personal desires take a decided back seat.
Occasionally, I have the great misfortune to sit at lunch and listen to conversations. Today’s petty words had to do with fights over who got the most loving message from a daughter. Really? I have a knife that will go right through your eye. Possibly both of them. Don’t talk about your sad need to be loved more than your sister. About where you will vacation and who will get the best bedroom. Get a life. I can’t take this.
All else pales in the perspective of a battle for your life, or your siblings, or parents, or children. And it isn’t your battle. Ultimately, no matter how hard you fight or how mad you get, you can’t make a real difference. It is up to him/her – the decisions they make, the medicine available, the laws in their state or country, the doctors’ concern and input, their body’s ability to fight, their immune system’s strength, and so on…ad nauseum. Nothing I do, think, or say will make much of a difference. And still, I have to try. Personally, I have nothing to do with any of this. If you don’t count your worries, your pain, your fear, your need to take over and control the choices – and the desperate fear that (if you did) you’d totally f..k it up and cause exactly what you’re terrified of – the loss of that person that gives you a rope, a hammock, your entire identity- would be gone because you chose wrong. It is their choice. I must have the respect to understand and abide by that. This is so terribly hard, so terribly wrong, and so terribly real.
How does a person totally rethink who they are in the face of dealing with such a disease? Because that it what it takes. The ability, the calm, the terribly difficult ease of reconsidering who you are with this disease? I have no ability to imagine this. None whatsoever. Because this is what it takes for a person to survive this debilitating disease if you’re a thoughtful person. If not, it won’t matter.
Now, I’ll shake my fist at the heavens – are you there, God? Why would this happen to a person who is so loving, carries you so deeply in their heart, works hard at being a good person, does all the right things? Why not me, who has made so many bad choices? What are we to learn from this? I wish I understood. Perhaps I don’t really want to. Perhaps I would simply get angrier. Maybe that’s my lesson. How not to get angry about incredibly unfair treatment. I may have to go around a few more lives before I get that one.
By the way, Cannibis oil is doing a lot of good for people with aggressive brain cancer. There may be better choices than chemo. Just maybe.