Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cancer Is Very Much A Battle

When I read that John McCain has brain cancer, I was upset.  I don't always agree with the guy, but he's a true war hero.  As a military brat, I respect that.  The news of the cancer hit Americans hard, and thousands of well wishes came pouring in.

And then came the poop on the party.  Several opinion columns hit the internet, taking umbrage with some of the well-wishers. I felt my face getting red while I scrolled down. President Obama's tweet, and other people were in error, and should not say what they did.  Their crime?  Discussing cancer as if it were a battle, or a war, or a fight. It is wrong, these columnists said. 

I disagree.  Cancer is very much a battle.

When a person gets a diagnosis of cancer, the very first thing they have to do is decide whether to fight.  There is the enormous decision to do whatever it takes, to try any treatment, take any pill.  To fight.  The first step in reaching any goal is to decide to get there.

Cancer is very much a battle.  There are strategy sessions with an oncologist, to locate the cancer and determine a course of action. There is arguing with insurance providers about coverage, and human resources about FMLA. There is tearing a stitch at the hospital because the stupid nurse won't come and help you sit up when your back hurts, and you are too darn stubborn to wait.  There's lots of hand to hand combat with needles, IV bags, scalpels, and radiation machines. There is the fight to get out of bed the day after chemotherapy, because your very bones hurt.  There is the struggle to eat, when sores have popped up in your throat.  There is the battle to keep a cheerful look on your face, so your son won't get upset. 

Some people who are diagnosed with cancer decide not to fight.  They don't want to deal with all those small battles, because they add up to a mountain of exhaustion. They would rather live out the rest of their days without all that fuss .  My dad has told me multiple times that if his cancer comes back, he is not going to do chemo.  He's an old soldier who no longer wants to fight.  I hate that, but  I will do my best to give it to him.

Cancer is very much a battle to me.  It is a way to reframe my situation in a manner that wasn't as scary, since I grew up fighting everything. It is positive to strive for what you want, no matter the issue.  "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" was my motto, even though most people would have no idea that I even know who Anthrax is.  I was okay with people encouraging me to fight, to battle, to war with my own genetic mutation.  It's the framing of the problem into tangible milestones. First surgery, then chemo, then radiation, then reconstruction.  Considering cancer a battle focuses your resources and galvanizes your courage. 

John McCain is a former soldier, he has a history of attacking all of the obstacles in his long life with the gusto we expect from him. It is likely that he might therefore see his situation as a fight. People who know him, like President Obama, are speaking encouragement to him in his language. That is okay, no matter what anyone says And losing the fight with cancer does not make you any less than you were.  Are all those soldiers who have died in battle over the years are no less significant for losing their battle.  It seems wrong for anyone to judge.   It's ridiculous to get so upset about the vocabulary of cancer!  I guess some people have to whine about something.  Remember that at the heart of all these encouraging statements is love and support, no matter what path a person takes. 

Respect that.  

1 comment:

  1. I very much agree. People who have never had cancer can not understand the daily struggle let alone the long term struggle that comes with cancer. If mine ever comes back or I get a new cancer.....I probably would fight again......Hoping I never have to face that struggle again.


I welcome comments, but reserve the right to correct your spelling because I am OCD about it!