[cancer] A social disease

Thinking more about cancer and what it means to me and everyone around me.

As I observed last year, cancer is a social disease. That is to say, it has an impact far wider than the patient. This is true of all illnesses and injuries, of course. Anyone in pain or danger affects their matrix of family and friends. But there’s a special horror to cancer. Almost in the Lovecraftian sense. My body is trying to kill me, literally, and the danger is completely sui generis. This isn’t a bacterial or viral invasion, it’s not trauma, it’s not an external assault or a wounding. It’s not a function of a perceived or actual misbehavior or self-maintenance on my part. It’s me, attacking myself, at the most fundamental levels.

In that sense, cancer has more in common with diabetes or MS or CP or arthritis. All of those conditions can be crippling, literally or figuratively. Fatal even. But cancer has a hold on the popular imagination that is almost unrivaled. I have looked back over my own fiction and noted how many times I’ve used the disease as a character element or a plot device or backstory. I don’t think I’ve ever written about diabetes or MS.

There’s something terrible about growing your own monsters. A birthing of a potential death. But the hardest part of cancer, based on my experiences last year, is how it affects those around me. Seeing the desperate fear in my mother’s eyes when the doctors brought me some of the worst news when I was in the hospital. Watching the misery of my friends. Cancer is not just attacking me, it’s attacking everyone who knows or loves me.

We can fight back. We will. This isn’t fatal. Hell, the liver problems aren’t even fully diagnosed at this point. Other outcomes are possible. The polyps have returned, though, with their malignant little calling cards.

The bitch of this year’s New Adventures in Cancer is the sense that it may never end. Now we know it comes back, like some brainless zombie in a B movie. Car accidents only happen once. In my life, and in the lives of those around me, springtime is in danger of becoming cancer season.

I’m going to kill this stupid bastard disease if it’s the last thing I ever do.

3 thoughts on “[cancer] A social disease

  1. When we beat cancer, it will be because there is no one, no one, untouched. Because everyone has a reason, or ten, or a hundred, to see the banner doesn’t fall until it’s over the finish line.

    When we beat cancer, you will be part of why. 🙂

  2. tetar says:

    That anger is the main thing. Implacable, cold, and total. Use it well and it’s your best ally.

    And you’re right about diabetes, too. It affects everything. Be glad you’ve dropped the weight and don’t have that saddled on you, too.

    And of course we won’t even mention the fucking heart attacks and so on.

    My only cavil is that it’s not really you attacking yourself. Cancer is a craziness of cells. Yes, it’s a part of you, but not YOU, if you see what I mean. When I was told of my cancer, aside from the fear that washes through, and the regret that your family won’t be seeing you anymore, I wondered why. When I was told there was but one known risk factor — Scottish ancestry — I thought, Hmph, odd. And never worried about it again. Never blamed myself. I have consistently felt it’s from outside what ever makes me myself. A fluke, an anomaly, bad luck, but not a misstep on my part, and not me attacking myself.

    And yes, I know. What ever works is what’s best. But if it helps you, you might ease up on the blame thing and consider it more an attack from another scale of reality.

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