There have been a few pieces of bad news that have crossed my line of vision lately: recurrences and death. I wrote this a few months ago about the pains of remaining in Cancerland, where the likelihood of exposing oneself to such pain is much higher.
Posted on August 17, 2013 by Cancer Curmudgeon
I think a lot about the risks and statistics regarding cancer. I think a lot about past post topics, like how folks in the kingdom of the well just want people who have/had cancer to move on already, just “get over” all the cancer. I don’t think about these things on purpose, they just pop up, unwanted. This post is about how these seemingly unrelated ideas mesh.
For those of us lucky enough to be former cancer patients, as in NOT Stage 4, our lives become about reducing risk of recurrence—diet, exercise, eliminating bad habits, taking up yoga/meditation/acupuncture (if you can afford the organic foods and things like acupuncture). Do all these right things and maybe cancer won’t come back. Then again, maybe it will.
What no one ever seems to mention (at least as far as I can tell) is another percentage or increased risk. The more former/current cancer patients in my social circle (in addition to or in place of those untouched by cancer? I don’t know) the more chances are I will hear bad news more often. It is just the way the odds are.
Sometimes with the various blogs I read or the few folks I interact with on the interwebs, plus those IRL, it means I hear more bad news than average, meaning more sadness.
Make no mistake, my sadness is NOTHING compared to what is felt by those whose news I’m hearing.
All I’m referring to here is the fact that by hanging out in Cancerland even while I have no evidence of disease, I am still wallowing in cancer, quite the opposite of “getting over cancer” which so many of those untouched by cancer wish I would do: “get over cancer”—snort of derision.
Being in Cancerland is like getting on a hamster wheel I cannot seem to escape. Every time I turn around, someone else is getting bad news, because that is the increased risk that comes with knowing cancer patients. Maybe in 7 years I can exit the wheel—after I get through my next 2 years of bi-annual onco visits, after the following 5 of annual visits, and hopefully after that I never see him or another oncologist again. And after I stop interacting online with other cancer patients. But right now I run on that wheel like a furry critter, chased by cancer, Cancer, CANCER. Whereas before October 2010, cancer was hardly a blip in my consciousness.
I don’t know what to make of my increased risk of hearing bad news, either for myself or for others. In a conversation with Tumblr buddy Greg, he pointed out we have to celebrate the rare bits of good news, because they are indeed so rare in Cancerland. Most of the news for me has been good, but I find myself thinking often of those who keep getting hit with the bad news.
I’ve often pointed out on my blog that I am not sentimental, that I do sarcasm far better than true emotion. It is difficult for me to express words of encouragement or support or any of the other things those in pain need to hear. I think I never come off sincere, even when I am at my most sincere. So I tend not comment to others these messages, because I find words so inadequate at those most awful times. But I am heartbroken for all the sadness I hear about, I want the reason for the sadness to just STOP already. It really is that simple.
So to those reading who are Stage 4, and/or who’ve had recurrence, take this post as my message of support.
And I’m not stepping off the wheel today. I’ll keep my risk for increased chance of sadness high for now.
8 thoughts on “Pitfalls of Residing in Cancerland”
this was a very excellent post, and one I know will resonate with other bloggers as well as readers, like me – the reality of the sadness and feelings of helplessness when we are part of a community where there are so many losses.
sometimes, there just aren’t any words…enough to express our sorrow and sometimes our anger and bewilderment – you know, the WTF??? moments when we learn of a recurrence or of a death that all seems so unfair, so cruel. I am sure there have been many, too many times when all of us are so decimated with difficult and sad news, we just feel like avoiding and unplugging and stopping reading and writing all things Cancerland. but it is not because we don’t care, it’s because we care so deeply, and it feels like there’s not one damned thing that would be enough, either to say or to do, to put even a dent into the suffering of others who have gone through the unspeakable.
but there is something, something that each of us who have walked in cancers’ shoes, that sets us apart and allows us to mindfully not turn away from any tragedy, no matter how helpless we feel. it is our capacity for empathy and for compassion. when we are able to pay witness to the enormous ordeals and struggles and even the death of a person and the loss felt by that person’s loved ones , the empathy and compassion that swells within us is not wasted. some might say, and I choose to be of the same mind, those two entities can be released into the universe from heart and minds who care so deeply, and will find their way to the aching and bereaved hearts we are longing to comfort – silently, perhaps anonymously, but with sincere and fervent intention. and perhaps it also helps us, assuaging the awful sadness and allowing ourselves to willingly keep vigil with a light shining brightly, lit with empathy, compassion, and love which are of the highest gifts of our humanity.
I align completely with your thought, your wish, our collective goal – ” …I want the reason for the sadness to just STOP, already.”, as well as what your friend, Greg pointed out – that we have to celebrate the rare bits of good news, because they are, indeed, so rare in Cancerland.
thank you for sharing your own story and emotions and reactions so honestly. thank you for hanging in there and turning out posts that inspire us and allow us to contribute to the conversation – one that isn’t easy to talk about, but helps us turn outside of ourselves and examine our own thoughts and feelings when faced with so much bad news.
much love and light to you, my Friend,
Aww, thanks Karen. This was a difficult post to write back when I first did it, and maybe someday I’ll re-approach this topic, and try to expand on it. I doubt I’ll ever “leave”, because, yes, it is important that those of us who’ve walked in cancer shoes keep in touch, I think. And I do hope to keep shining a light, keep a conversation about even some of the tougher realities of life with cancer.
And thanks foe always encouraging me to keep at it! xoxxo CC
Leaving cancerland can be very difficult. Even 25+years out from my first diagnosis I still was lingering as the ‘what if’ never really goes away.
Yes, I’m fairly certain “what if” will never go away for me either. I’m glad you pointed this out, given that you ARE over 25 years out. Maybe that is as it should be–it is part of your story, no point in denying it. Sounds like you are being realistic, and I applaud that. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
I have a friend diagnosed with stage 4. I think there should be a stage 5. She is doing well and no signs of cancer. When we are told you have “stage 4″, most think there is no hope. The CDC should change this to “stage 5″, if there is no hope. There are many living with cancer for years that is being managed by diet or meds. Can someone approach the power that be to do this?
Wow, I would not even know how to begin with something like that! I’m sure there are many issues with this. Thanks for reading!
I’m still not passed my one-year mile marker after having been diagnosed or having the bi-lateral mastectomy but, it (cancer) will always be my first suspicion when any bodily function goes awry. As a matter of fact, I’ve got to see my doctor next week about some strange moles that I’m sure are malignant.
Cancer’s motto might have been “Surprise!” for its first episode but there is no surprise factor for any following appearances.
Ha ha, I say cancer’s motto is shit happens, but yeah, surprise works very well too.