Mean Streak

As I’ve said many times, cancer did NOT make me a better person. Those treacly articles and captioned pictures present on so many internet feel-good stories are just not my story. I did not learn to re-prioritize my life, cancer did not teach me life is precious, blah, blah, blah. Cancer merely made me more myself, I often think. And cancer has uncovered a rather mean streak in me, I am sorry to admit.

I know, I know, one should never read comments on articles, but sometimes I still cannot help it. Every now and again, I see something really awful. This has happened a couple of times so far in 2015.

When Jolie hit the news again a few months ago with her surgeries, the usual chit chat started about surgery as prevention, BRCA issues and so on. I found one really disturbing comment from someone saying something like everyone dies, implying Jolie should not have done something so extreme to prevent cancer, to attempt to prolong her life. It really upset me. Then, just the other day I read another story about how the rising costs of life-saving cancer drugs are putting those very drugs out of reach for some patients. (Is it just me or does that make them um, NOT life-saving? Moving on….) Of course the first comment I ran across said that one or two more years are just not worth bankrupting oneself or one’s family just to feed the greed of big pharma because after all, death is inevitable.

When I see sentiments like this expressed, I am shocked and angry. How quick some folks are to throw away the lives of people with terminal cancer! It is so very easy for these people I suppose, to make statements like this when they do not face a cancer diagnosis. Or maybe they have faced, or are facing, a cancer diagnosis, but that still does not give them the right to determine what a year or two of more life is worth to another.

This is where my mean streak rises up, a meanness I did not know I possessed before cancer. Gee I guess I did learn something from cancer (eye roll). I would never wish actual cancer on another, but I cannot help but want others to feel what it is like to have cancer (without actually having it): all the uncertainty, the wondering if it will come back and take your life. So when I read a comment like “we all gotta die sometime”, my knee jerk reaction is “yes we do, but you first—I want to live as long as I can”. I know it is an awful thing to say, but I have felt this way for a while now.

Maybe that “life is short, live every moment” lesson that gets spouted in cancer stories is a little different for me. I always knew life to be short, precious, and that I should not be wasting time doing stuff I hate. What is clear to me now, or at least I think about it more these days, is how much I want to remain alive. It was easy, before cancer, to use “life is short” as a rationalization for silly things: life is short, go on that trip, buy the dream house, etc. My view has shifted slightly. This is a more nitty gritty, how far will I go to stay alive, and why, kind of view. I suppose some of the “everyone dies sometime” commenters would view my life as expendable: I do not have children, nor siblings so no nieces and nephews, I am not destined to do great things, I spend most of my blogging time curmudgeon-ing—what does my life matter?

But that is the thing—I don’t have to justify my existence to them. My life matters to me, and I’ll do what it takes to keep it.

Yes, we all gotta go sometime, excuse the hell out of me for wanting to delay that.

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