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What I am about to tell you may not be very popular. And truth be told, I’ve been hesitant to write about it for fear of offending or insulting others. But there’s that word again…FEAR. I no longer want fear to dictate my life or my decisions or my desires to share my personal belief system with the world. Especially a belief system that seems to be working some seriously great things in my life.
So here it goes.
Are you ready?
I have given up the fight with cancer.
I refuse to engage in the struggle any longer.
The battle is futile and the war on cancer is a waste of my time, my energy and my talents.
Allow me to explain.
Our society has embraced one way and one way only to discuss cancer – via the language of war. Those of us who have been diagnosed with cancer must “fight” and “combat” our disease. We hope to “win the war” against cancer. Some of us may “survive” while others may “lose the battle.”
Those of us with cancer are called “heroes.” We are “brave” and “courageous.” We are “warriors” against this “enemy.”
But here’s the thing. I wasn’t called to military service. I didn’t enlist for any war. I wasn’t drafted. I’m not a hero. I’m not brave. I was simply diagnosed with a disease and offered a few options of treatment. I chose one and went with it. Nothing more than that.
I have cancer. I have a disease that terrifies the heck out of people. And we have no other way to talk about it. Hey, I’m not blaming anyone. This is a world-wide phenomenon.
I simply wonder if we might be going about this the wrong way. Is there an alternative way to talk about cancer? Can we choose language that fosters a kinder, gentler, softer way of being?
I find that when I get angry, when I get worked up about something, when I prepare to engage in a fight, my body tenses up and I become stressed. And stress leads to a lowered immune system. And a lowered immune system is the last thing a person with cancer needs.
When I’m worked up I also become more scattered, more erratic and less productive. I am apt to give into pessimistic thinking and engage in unhealthy behaviors (overeating, overspending, procrastination, picking fights). I make myself miserable and the people around me miserable. And that is no way for a body to heal.
And here’s another thing…my cancer didn’t appear out of thin air. My body created this cancer. A few errant cells in my colon went a bit haywire and decided to take a whacky field trip to some other areas of my body. Am I supposed to get pissed at myself? Am I supposed be angry with my own body for what it has done? I refuse to hate any part of myself – even a few naughty microscopic cells.
Whenever we wage war on something, we give it power. We build up this perceived enemy and perpetuate feelings of hatred and anger and vitriol. Cancer doesn’t need any more power than it already has. If we decide to fight, cancer has no choice but to fight back.
What language can we use to embrace this disease and move beyond it? How can we accept it into our lives, co-exist with it while still working toward a cure? Kris Carr, who was diagnosed with a slow-growing, inoperable and untreatable form of cancer over 11 years ago calls herself a cancer “thriver.” I love that. Talk about spinning a negative into a positive.
I simply tell people that I am “living with cancer.” That statement has a deep meaning for me. I have never felt more alive, more appreciative of life, more blessed with the gifts of this world than I have since my diagnosis over 9 months ago. In some ways I feel like I am truly living for the first time in my life.
I challenge you to think about alternative ways to speak about cancer or any disease or illness. I understand that this is a difficult proposition. It’s unorthodox. It’s counter-cultural. It’s definitely the road less-traveled.
But I tell you…it’s a beautiful way to live. And I feel like I’m only just beginning to learn. So much more to come, my friends.