Cancer is a Killer. Fairly obvious statement there. Of course it is a killer, there is no known cure. But as bad as it is, it doesn’t just kill it’s host, it kills hopes and dreams, plans and activities. It kills the very fabric of hope, thoughts, feelings. It kills time. It removes any open opportunity and will always be sitting there waiting to strike with a new issue to solve or problem to sort. Cancer is a killer, and it’s victims spread far wider and far deeper than its biological host.
Cancer can be described as or compared to some sort of sick bio-weapon due to its tactics at evading treatment and adapting itself to hostile conditions. For many the word ‘Cancer’ is enough to strike fear into their very being. Personally the word itself, doesn’t strike me with fear for myself, but it doesn’t quite sit right with me. Its sinister, dark and twisty. I can talk about Cancer, I can say the word. I’ve probably said the word so often since October 16 that it has lost all meaning and structure as a word for me. But instead it is there, lurking under every pillow awaiting the perfect opportunity to reveal itself and launch into full attack mode.
I am a direct family member of a Cancer patient. I have witnessed first hand the decline and stages of grief of that person and of myself. I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to what stages I am at currently, I think I experienced most of them in one day. But here I am trying not to talk, for the moment at least about feelings of a personal nature. Instead I wanted to talk about other feelings, and the effects that dealing with Cancer, and living with Cancer has on the human mind. Over the past six months I have been forced to educate myself to Cancer sufficiently enough to be able to hold a conversation with Doctors so that they cannot play the “I’ve been to Medical School, who are you? you’re just the patient” card. Doctors don’t tell you the full story about anything, it is almost like once they finish training they get extra tuition on how to piss the patient or family off just enough so that you don’t notice how you are getting short changed when shoved out of the office before your 10 minutes are up. – These are the same Doctors that schedule three appointments for the same 10 minute time slots and seem to be amused and somewhat proud when they hear of patients waiting for upwards of SIX hours in a waiting room to see them. Some of these people are gravely ill.
I won’t go much further on the Doctors right now, that and the state of UK medical services is part of a much bigger topic that I can see myself on the pathway towards talking about. But not now. Getting back to my original point, Cancer is a killer. Lets talk typically and hypothetically… Lets say a patient is told they have Cancer, they have surgery to reduce or remove the Cancer and then they recover. Unfortunately two years later they are told that the Cancer is back.. – A fairly typical presentation of an unpredictable disease. Unfortunately again, the second time the Cancer returns perhaps the patient is unlucky and surgery is not longer an option, either due to the need to remove a body part that is essential to life or some other complication. So treatment becomes one of the options. A short list of options it has to be said. Typically there are two first-response pathways; Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy.
I said earlier that the word ‘Cancer’ is a fearful word for many. For me the fear is triggered with the words ‘Radiotherapy’ and more-so ‘Chemotherapy’. ‘Radiotherapy’ for me is a scary concept as it involves exposing the body to in some cases a substantial dose or radiation. Personally I have a phobia of x-ray machinery. It’s a stupid fear, and one that I am more comfortable with now, but the fear is still there, it still remains. I think as a kid it was the smell that I associated with x-rays. (I know how stupid that sounds). Radiotherapy and the ‘burning of skin’ belongs for me in that category of ‘Sinister Words’. Chemotherapy for me is, well it’s a stupidly long way of saying “here lets push this poison around your body and hope it finds its target. Then lets hope its target responds well, meanwhile it will take all your energy and possibly make you feel worse than when you started all of this”. Ok so perhaps it’s a shorter word than saying all of that.
So our hypothetical patient, lets say they did Radiotherapy and it worked in doing its job, it reduced the size of the Cancer but caused an complication. But in doing its job well it opened up another treatment option, one that wasn’t present before, then its a good thing right? In theory yes, surely more options are better than fewer options. Unfortunately for our patient infection sets in and worst fears are realised. All previous positives are pushed away and another slice is taken from the top. For some reason my example in my head is a carrot. Freshly plucked and standing proud (because carrots stand). Something goes wrong, and the top layer of shiny new carrot is chopped off. Below is still a functioning carrot but less shiny than it was before. But it has hope. Next something else goes wrong and another slice is take off. This time it’s left a jaggeder (apparently it’s a word) edge and it’s no longer a smooth, shiny carrot. So on and so forth, and what it’s left like at the end is a little stumpy carrot that doesn’t really resemble a carrot at all any more.
That right there, is living with Cancer. So if we look at that on a daily basis and let’s say we somehow get a new carrot everyday, which is unrealistic because carrots do not grow on trees, but bare with me here… You wake up in the morning, feeling bright, restored due to the rest you’ve had from the perfect worry free night of sle… sorry got carried away there. You wake up, feeling ok, but you would be feeling better if you remembered the last night of good solid seven hour sleep you had. You get up to start the day. It may take a few minutes till pain starts to kick in and then the quest becomes chasing the pain and trying to get on top and ahead of it for the rest of the day. This is before breakfast or a morning wee. The day becomes about the battle rather than being able to spend some moments enjoying achievements or finishing of tasks, if you are so lucky as to get a second to deal with anything other than the daily struggle. You do this for long enough and often enough and the key to it all – hope – starts to fade away.
It’s not even that it fades away, it’s that you forget that you ever had any. You realise how delusional you were to have any in the first place because Cancer is a Killer. But if you do manage to keep a tight hold on hope, you can be bloody well sure that by the end of the day, when you drag yourself back into the bed, you not longer have the energy to think about the hope that is lost. You just want to sleep because tomorrow will be better and this too will pass. You convince yourself of this and you go to sleep, longing for that slither of hope to return and increase tomorrow.
Plans… Cancer makes everything harder. It doesn’t matter if it’s directly related or not, that’s what Cancer does. It adds an extra step to everything that you try to you. You can try to ‘be strong’ and not let that happen, but I wouldn’t wish that fight on anybody. Try to travel with Cancer… If you are on painkillers, you not only have to consider the pain that you are in physically, you also have to consider how much pain you can take when it comes to the stupid amount of paperwork it takes for example to be able to fly – If you are still medically fit enough to fly. If you take controlled medication you’ll need a letter for that, then a letter to say you are fit to fly, then you need travel insurance. And this one is the kicker. As someone with Cancer, you are forced to pay more because insurance companies believe there is a higher chance of you claiming for medical insurances while you are on holiday. They believe this to the tune of thousands of pounds to ensure a 2-week trip. So then you have a money issue to consider. So health and well-being, pain relief, the actual travel, having money to go on holiday, to get away and have a break, to rest and try to recover… This is not even mentioning the processes and inconveniences one would have to go through at an airport.
My point here is its no longer the Cancer that stops plans and kills hope, but its everything surrounding it that stops you dead in your tracks. The stress of that alone for some people would simply make them give up trying. That in my eyes is fair enough. If the struggle is too great.. But then that is being stopped by Cancer the dream-killer. Except it’s not really the Cancer that does it. But it is…
I don’t know what this post is about. I know when I started it I was intending to talk about fear and pain and hope and survival. I was intending to talk about the battle, of the Cancer sufferer. But the truth of the matter is that Cancer affects everyone who has ever had to be around it, through a loved one who is on the battle path, through having it themselves and struggling for the hope and will to carry on and more. There is a point to all of this, and perhaps one day it will become clearer, but to me right now, this has stopped making any kind of sense.
It’s a silent and deadly force that will stop and nothing and actively evade enforcement against itself.