[cancer] Why I talk about the Fear, and about cancer in general

Blog traffic has built a lot in the past year, and there’s always churn in my readership, so I thought I’d touch on why I talk about the Fear, and cancer in general.

Late in the evening of March 29th of 2008, I was admitted to the OHSU Emergency Room for very serious rectal bleeding. As it happened, I’d had a hematocrit test that morning, so we were later able to establish that I’d lost 25% of my blood volume in an 18-hour period. I collapsed inside the ER with blood pressure too low to measure. Various urgent medical procedures ensued. On March 30th, I was diagnosed with colon cancer, Tubulovillous adenocarcinoma with suspected lymphatic involvement.

I immediately made a decision to go very public with this. Some of that is just symptomatic of my pathological extroversion, but more of it was due to the secretive and shameful nature of cancer. In some very real senses, “cancer” is the last dirty word. I blogged all through the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I talked about the funny bits, the stupid bits, the painful bits, the emotionally damaging bits, and the hopeful bits. See here for the history: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Why?

Because it shouldn’t be a secret. Because far more people than you and I will ever realize have gone through these experiences. Maybe the gal in the cube next to yours at work. Maybe a friend who never mentioned his prostate cancer from fifteen years ago before you knew him. Your boss, your pastor, your grocery store clerk. And while everyone has the absolute right to as much privacy as they wish, no one should be forced to make this journey alone.

My cancer so far has been an amazing gift, filled with hope and benefit and growth for me and many people around me. After these next round of tests on 5/14 and 5/15, I’ll be as close to clear as I can be before the five-year survival clock is run out successfully. My story came out well, despite the Fear and the pain.

Not everyone’s does.

So I talk about it, because I can. It’s my personality, and I have a platform to reach many eyes and ears. Because maybe in talking about it, I can lend courage to other people. Maybe in talking about it I can grant understanding to other people. Maybe in talking about it I can make others’ experiences a little better. Maybe in talking about it, I can steal cancer’s power away, and give it to everyone who desperately needs a piece of that power for themselves.

And ultimately, talking about is what takes away my own Fear, lets me love and and everyone else in my life as fiercely and as powerfully as I do.

Thank you for listening.

3 thoughts on “[cancer] Why I talk about the Fear, and about cancer in general

  1. Thank you for talking about it. I was especially touched when you said, “My cancer so far has been an amazing gift, filled with hope and benefit and growth for me and many people around me.”

    The same has been true for me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2007. I blogged it all, for the same reasons as you.

    I know the Fear very intimately, but I also know exactly what you mean when you say, “My cancer so far has been an amazing gift, filled with hope and benefit and growth for me and many people around me.” My life now is so precious. My priorities are so clear. And I feel more free to love more freely than I ever did before the cancer.

    People who haven’t been there maybe wouldn’t understand that cancer could be a gift, but for me, as for you, it was.

    You have my very best thoughts for a clear report on 5/15 and always.

    Kindest regards,
    Angel…

  2. It reminds me of when I lost the girl in between my two boys, at five months along. The minister who came to see me asked what I wanted to pray for, and I said, “that I’ll be able to talk about it.”

    For the next six months or so I talked about it whenever I felt like it, and invariably there was someone there who had gone through the same thing, sometimes 20 or 30, even 40 years before. Invariably they remembered it like it was yesterday, and some of them told me they’d never been allowed to talk about it before. “It’s like you belong to an enormous club, and you know it’s enormous–but you don’t know any of the other members,” one of them told me. Years later, when a condition that forced my hysterectomy turned out to have been caused by not just an enormous polyp, but one with a particularly nasty cancer encapsulated inside it, so deep that the original biopsy hadn’t shown it, I got it all down “on paper” and shared it that way. It helped me, and I hope it helped others, too.

    I’m glad you blogged about the cancer and the Fear, too, Jay. Anything that brings people together to acknowledge each other’s humanity is a Good Thing.

  3. Mary Kay says:

    Those are some of the same reasons I talk so much, in my LJ and everywhere else, about living with depression/biopolar 2. Mental illness is pretty much regarded as shameful in our culture too. And one of the reasons I finally got medical help for it was someone else talking about how a loved one had been helped. So to help remove the stigma and maybe help improve others lives I talk about it.

    Talking about it has not been without cost. I lost a job I really wanted. I think some people have distanced themselves from me. But at least one person told me he had gotten help encouraged by what I said so that’s way more important to me.

    MKK

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