I appreciate and understand completely when my friends tell me “You will kick cancer’s ass,” and “You can fight this.”
Everyone uses war and battle analogies when describing the disease. Cancer is the unquestionably evil baddie who must be soundly defeated by an ultimately triumphant warrior who becomes a survivor.
If an analogy is introduced into a conversation I like to respond in kind, it is good form. I want to say to my friends, “Yeah I am ready for war, I have some torpedo’s ordered from amazon, they were all out of WMD’s but I think I will just pick some up at the Glendale Galleria. That cancer is going Dowwwwwwnnnnn!” or “Yes I am in battle 101 classes right now, as soon as I pass the exams I will graduate to ninja and that cancer won’t stand a chance against my numchucks and stealth mode. I decided not to take the pirate course but I think it will work out ok.” Instead I say thank you, and give them a hug.
If I look at cancer like a battle it would be a civil war with the battleground being my body. No one likes a civil war. They are messy, bloody, go on for years and can leave scars on future generations.
I have already fought with my body, over how short it is, how big my calves are, how everything I eat is prominently displayed on my thighs and in my back fat. I don’t need any more reasons for warring with it. I don’t want to think of something evil living and lurking inside me that must be violently destroyed.
My cancer analogy looks more like this. Some normal regular cells divided, like cells are apt to do, and thought “that was fun” lets do it again. I like to think the cells were unthinking, like teenagers who can’t process consequences and had a party when their parents were away. I don’t want to annihilate the teenagers nor blow up the parents who thought they were old enough and responsible enough to do the right thing. It is a situation that needs some cleaning up and education. The chemo is power washing the graffiti off the drive way and the front of the house. (It was a legendary party) The parents and teenagers need to have big convo’s to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Ultimately there needs to be communication leading to reconciliation. Thats the hard part.
The larger part of the process is not the fight, it’s learning how to heal.
I need to reconcile with my body, it was the one who spawned the cancer cells and let them grow. It did this once and it could do it again. I don’t want to battle a part of me, I want to clean up (surgery) and move forward. I want to do the best to educate and give boundaries to those teenage cells and hope they will grow up to be delightful contributing members of my regular cell community. To do this I want to live a life that nourishes me physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. My first step is learning how the fuck to do that.
The media chooses words like “succumbed to cancer” to imply the person just didn’t fight hard enough. This provides a sense of security to people who want to believe cancer is in our control and separates them from people who ‘succumbed’ aka gave up.
It is hard to hear that it is more complicated than that. That some cancers are as a result of bad living and some are just random, that some fighters make it and some don’t, some hypochondriacs wish for death and live long lives, some smart people do all the right things and don’t.
In the absence of one guaranteed approach I think I have to do what comes instinctively. I am a good verbal sparer but terrible in hand to hand combat and I fear that cancer won’t be scared by my sarcastic witty put downs. I am a vegan, bit of a hippie and a pacifist, so the teenager analogy gives me space to use my strong will to heal with kale, laughter, meditation, love and drum circles.
If I have to face this challenge again. I will (try like hell) not blame myself by remembering that cancer can be random. Just in case I ever need a new approach/ analogy, I would like to reserve the right to wear war paint, the cute kind with the dark smear on the top of the cheek bone.
Just wanted to apologize to my future teenagers for having compared them to cancer.