Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Friday, July 29, 2011

Linkee-poo, special edition on cancer

"The worst case scenario here is we accidentally treated a 9-11 responder's cancer even though his cancer may not be proven to have its genesis on 9-11." While, "yes, this," also somewhat a part of the whole "Fukushima/Chernobyl disaster and cancer, not a direct link" debate. You might remember me pointing out that, "well, all those increases in cancer can't be directly tied to Chernobyl" argument. Welcome to its US cousin.

Speaking of cancer, Jay Lake speaks of his own cancer. He also points to this xkcd on the subject of survivability.

It's a hard struggle, and my heart goes out to Jay. Staring one's own mortality in the face isn't easy, even when you've done it before and are prepared. It is made especially harder with the stories we tell ourselves of the "fight until the last breath" struggle, "stay strong", or the "miracle remission," or the ever popular, "you'll be okay/things will turn out okay" and finally the guilt ridden, "you have so much to live for." Couple that with the myth of "tell Laura, I love her" death bed scenes. Death is not the nice person he's made out to be in modern movies. He is like how the ancients saw him, a thief in the night.

I've promised to write a post on "Cancer and Me", this is not it. It's complex, and cancer is the barrel of the Armalite I look down every morning. At sixteen I watched cancer devour my Grandfather. Watched it take him away from me, piece by piece. And I know, when the cancer came back the year before, he knew what it was. It wasn't his first dance with that devil. He knew why he was losing so much weight. By the time the rest of us did, and imposed our version of the story of his life on him, it was too late. His surgical team changed direction mid procedure from "eradication" to "palliative care." The person who taught me what it meant to be a man, what it meant to love someone fully - cancer ripped him from me just as I was becoming a man and trying to love someone fully.

I have gone into days of my life with a chip on my shoulder and embracing the philosophy of "today is a good day to die." I know what that phrase really means (as, unfortunately, too many kids now know). And I've put on that cloak of invincibility to swagger forth and either use my shield or come home on it. I know what a life struggle is like, know the lay of the land for that particular Hell.

Two more people I know were diagnosed with cancer this year. Last night at class, one of my class mates shared her story of "walking" her parents down with their cancers. I should have gone up and hugged her. I know that pain, and that fear. You may also remember this year I had a sarcoma removed (on my ear). Given my family history, you can bet I wigged out a little.

Fuck cancer.

One way the stories we tell ourselves screw things us concerns the whole debate of "not giving pain meeds" to terminal patients, or "heroic extremes" to keep someone alive (the opposite of "can you pull the plug?" conversations that go on behind shuttered windows). It's a pervasive myth we hold. It's part of why Terri Schiavo's ordeal was allowed to go on for so long (and also why that fight was personal to me).

When it comes to it, I will probably fight hard. That's just the way I'm put together. Other people have their own stories to live, and each one is just as valid and acceptable as the next. But, if I get like my Grandfather or Grandmother in their last months, get the damn Hospice involved. I am not your fucking made-for-TV movie.

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