Cancer is an equal opportunity bastard. And a sneaky one too. For years, I deluded myself with the idea that I didn’t really need to worry about cancer, because I really didn’t have a history of it in my family. I come from ‘peasant stock’, I would flippantly say – implying a heritage of poor but hard-working people with long life spans of serfdom and servitude. Well, that’s true, except of course, for my Grandmother, who died of breast cancer. And of course there was great-aunt Fran, who finally stopped eating in surrender to her lung cancer. Right, and Mom – whose thirty+ years of smoking finally caught up with her too. Come to think of it, with my Dad’s recent super rare nasopharyngeal carcinoma diagnosis, I just turbo-boosted myself from someone completely unconcerned with cancer, to someone who is starting to recognize it as a potential part of my destiny. Scary stuff.
So today I am finding some comfort (and inspiration) in being surrounded by people WITH cancer. People who are getting chemo treatments, like my Dad. People who may or may not be accompanied by a loved one. People with grey faces, and thinning hair (or bald heads). People from every class, every color, every ethnic and cultural background. And all with one thing in common: there’s a bastard they are fighting against with everything they’ve got. And here’s the great thing: right now, in this multi-curtained room I’ve spent the better part of six hours in, no matter who they are or where they’ve come from, they are getting excellent care and treatments that are more effective than ever before. Is there a guarantee that they’ll be cured? Not by a long shot – but at least all of these brave and amazing folks that I’m surrounded by today have a much better chance at recovery than ever before.
Cancer is like the uninvited asshole who shows up at your party, trashes the bathroom, breaks the heirloom vase and drinks all your beer. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some friends or family and the support you need to help you kick him out. Sometimes he gets the hint and never comes back and sadly, sometimes, in the middle of the night, he comes in and burns down your house and takes everything you’ve got. You’re never guaranteed one outcome over the other, but it’s nice to know there are more options than ever before to help you put up a stronger fight than you ever thought imaginable.