Ten Reasons Cancer Stinks, and Ten Reasons it Doesn't
Why it stinks:
1) Cancer’s not fair. “Hey–I don’t smoke, seldom drink, exercise regularly, eat right, and I get cancer? What’s up with that?”
2) When you have cancer, you feel your body has turned against you. It’s not like a virus or
bacterial infection, or something attacking from outside; it’s your own cells, attacking one another from within, creating an internal battleground.
3) Cancer can change your appearance. Big time. Not only does your topography change with a lumpectomy or mastectomy, your geography may change if you’ve had reconstruction–Wait a sec, that’s not where my belly button used to be! And of course, there’s the loss of your hair, which makes visible parts of yourself you may never have seen before (your naked skull), let alone revealed for all the world to see.
4) Cancer isn’t a disease you can easily forget. Your breast, whether all or part of it’s missing, is all it takes to remind you about cancer every morning in the shower.
5) Unless you have good health insurance, cancer can be darned expensive. Even with pretty good insurance, those co-pays and deductibles and “we are unable to reimburse because you’ve exceeded your plan’s maximum amount of physical therapy” payments mount up. And it’s not like you have a real choice about getting treated, given the alternative.
6) Cancer changes you from a caregiver to a care receiver. As women, we’re used to giving, and giving, and giving some more–to friends, to parents, to children and spouses and the soccer team bake sale. Now we find ourselves so wrapped up in the battle, we have little energy to give; and instead, must take.
7) Cancer disrupts your schedule. Sick days at work are used up, vacation days are spent in treatment, rather than sitting in the sun with a good book, cars and kids have to be juggled so you can go to radiation every day for six weeks.
8) Cancer can kill you. You feel like there’s a loaded six-shooter pointed at your head, with one bullet in the chamber, or four, or maybe five bullets. Russian roulette – are you feeling lucky?
9) Cancer treatment makes you sick. Funny, it’s not usually the cancer itself that makes you vomit, sears your breast, or makes swallowing past the pain in your throat impossible; it’s the cure.
10) Once you have cancer, your belief that you’ll live a long, healthy life is never again quite as strong.
Ten reasons it doesn’t:
1) Cancer can change your life–if you let it. It’s a turning point: want to do something different, be a new person, have a better outlook? Go for it.
2) When you have cancer, people treat you gently and solicitously. Enjoy it – and remember, this is the way we should all treat one another, all the time.
3) Chemo gives you new hair. Always wanted curly hair without a perm? Now’s your chance!
4) Cancer forces you to stop and take a break from your usual stress sources. OK, granted it gives you NEW stress; but in putting aside the old stress in favor of the new, sometimes when you revisit the old issues that were causing you stress, you realize they’re just really not that important.
5) When you have cancer, you really do appreciate everyday things more. Living in the shadow of death–even when it’s the barest hint of a shadow–makes every sunrise twice as nice.
6) You no longer have to worry about getting cancer. You’ve got it! Check it off the mental worry list.
7) Cancer opens your life up to a whole new circle of friends. The woman having chemo in the chair beside you, caregivers you become close to, someone at work you’ve never really noticed who looks you in the eye and says “Hey, I’ve been there. Let’s talk.”
8) Cancer can develop your spiritual side. Whether within a formal religious framework, or meditating on the yoga mat, or getting a Reiki treatment, you may find yourself suddenly much more open. Your soul grows stronger, in order to balance the fight going on in your body.
9) As you learn to receive care gracefully, you become a better caregiver yourself. Cancer shows you the balance between giving and receiving.
10) People are nice, and the world really is a good place. Your cancer brings out the best in your family, friends, and caregivers. And if it doesn’t–give them a break, and move on. We’re all human.
Published On: August 15, 2006