by JANE HIDER
My oncologist said this to me when we first met: cancer is just the wrong form of energy. This slightly hippie-ish comment impressed me on a number of levels. But most importantly, it makes the point about what cancer is.
It is part of you. At its most basic level cancer is a collection of cells who grow uncontrolled or refuse to die. And how can I fight what is part of me? I am not engaged in a battle. It is not a fight.
To me, it is learning to live with what is in me.
What cancer isn’t? It isn’t a blessing, it doesn’t create brave warriors, it doesn’t make us like statistics more.
Here are 12 commonly believed myths about cancer patients (and what you THINK we want to hear from you.)
Myth #1: We like to be reminded there are other ways to die
Is there anyone with cancer who has not had this happy possibility pointed out to them: ‘Well of course we could all be hit by a bus tomorrow.’? (As it happens I have already had my bus run-in, as a teenager, when my friend Julia pulled me out of the path of an oncoming bus. I feel reasonably sure I will not be having any more bus action in my life).
I could drop dead of a heart attack at my desk, as clients of mine have done. I could contract a rare parasite and fade away. My car could be involved in a six car pileup on the freeway. I could, according to my father, quite easily die from Alzheimers, because did I know that at least four hitherto unmentioned relatives all died of it, not knowing or caring who their family was? (I think, but cannot be certain, that he was trying to make me feel better telling me this).
Sadly, these entirely theoretical conversations don’t bring me much solace. I know, having been diagnosed with cancer at 42, that the chances of me dying from an out of control bus are really not quite as good as the chances of me dying of, oh yes, that’s it. Cancer.
Myth #2: We are all afraid of death
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, if you had asked me how I would have dealt with such an eventuality, I would have been quite definite. I would have expected to spend a good week crying and wailing, rending my hair and screaming to the heavens, frightened of my impending demise. Just as when I was a little girl I would lie in bed at night, staring at the black ceiling, trying to imagine what death was like. The absence of life. A big open endless nothing.