Report from the Cancer front-linePosted: 28/01/2005
2 months post-diagnosis, I thought I might share various thoughts on the “cancer battle”. The following, of course, represents my own personal views and I can’t speak for the entire cancer community, but I speak as honestly and directly as I can.
It’s a Lovely War
In many ways, once diagnosed I felt as if I had been enlisted into an army fighting the evil C empire. Living in an acute/terminal ward, to put it delicately, ‘rooms become available’. Or, as Tim puts it, people ‘go up to the 20th floor’. Death is everywhere and it is astonishing how quickly one gets used to it. Of course it is terrible to hear of a death, and to witness a family mourning, but very quickly one refocuses and gets back to the matter at hand: one’s own survival. There is also a sense of camaraderie among fellow patients and a mutual moral support system that arises, just as I imagine arises in a battling army. The haircuts are remarkably similar as well.
It seems paradoxical that despite the completely overwhelming and miraculous support from family, friends and wonderful strangers, I face the core of this challenge alone: My body, my mind, my mortality and my life. So at once cancer has brought me a level of interconnectedness with humanity and a degree of autonomy previously unimaginable. It feels as if the love and wishes of many give me the strength to face this challenge alone and without fear. And I’m not scared- I know I ‘should’ be – but I am not.
I am a non-smoker, rarely drink (as anybody who has drunk with me will attest), am a ‘healthy eater’ and before my diagnosis exercised daily. So why did this happen to me? “No idea,” my doctors, who happen to be very intelligent and learned, say. So will I become one of those examples cited by smokers and drinkers as a reason to continue with an ‘unhealthy lifestyle’? Quite possibly. However, if I get through this, I will continue living as healthily as my commitment will allow. Why? Well two reasons:
- Quality of Life. I prefer to live without, for example, a dependence of cigarettes and the associated breathing difficulties. Even if I knew I would never contract a life-threatening disease from smoking, I would not choose to do it.
- If anything happens… I would not like to have entered the first few weeks of my treatment without healthy lungs, liver and kidneys. No way. No siree bob. If cancer IS completely random, then it could hit anybody at any time; and if it does hit, trust me, you want us much going for you as possible.
I just want to live. I am nowhere near finished with what I want to do on this planet, and to leave now… well, it would be just untidy and rather rude. So I’ll do what I can, I’ll take any treatment to give me every chance of getting through this. A side-effect of one of my chemotherapy treatments is numbness and tingling of the fingertips. I have this and have no guarantee that it will go away. You know how much I love playing the guitar, but if that’s what’s needed to live, bring it on! As I have mentioned before, my priorities have now become concrete. Many things in life, are laughably unimportant. But the stuff that I value now – I will never stop fighting for.
Love & Peace,