December 6, 2009

cancer awareness.

in our society, it seems as though our best coping skill for dealing with our fear of cancer is to distance ourselves from it. whether that means following a 'cancer prevention diet' or buying everything that's pink to 'raise awareness'. we have distanced ourselves from cancer so well that we don't have much awareness at all. unless, of course, awareness means that we know that pink is the color ribbon that represents breast cancer. or that lance armstrong fought cancer, and won.

if we really focused on raising awareness, that's when we could quell a lot of fear and lessen the distance between us and cancer. why is it important? because the chance of developing some type of cancer in your lifetime is about 1 in 3. and, i can tell you from this side that cancer is a lot scarier when you don't have it...because once you do, you're forced to understand it and become very close to it.... the worst part of this cancer experience? the initial diagnosis. you have to take a huge leap in a very short time to close the distance we've created as a why not lessen the distance for everyone in hopes that no one ever has to take such a huge leap? here's a little bit of the awareness i wish i had before cancer...

all the time we see 'for a cure' after something related to cancer, which leads us to believe there is no cure for cancer. there are over two hundred types of cancers...and, in fact, all of them are potentially curable, although it may be extremely rare in some. quite a few cancers, like hodgkin's, are treated with curative intent. cancer is really just the word used for a process where cells don't live and die as they doesn't mean 'a disease that is always fatal'. also, early detection saves lives in every cancer, and it's possible with any's just not as easy as a self-exam in lots of cases.

which is the next point.... we've come to fear radiation exposure in our society, and, while i'd never say it's safe, it's often necessary. people are shocked to know that the mass i had, which was the size of a grapefruit, couldn't be seen or felt....which it couldn't, because it's behind my ribs. the only way to detect it was a chest xray, which i was told was unnecessary radiation for a healthy twenty something. sure, the chances of finding cancer were small, but the radiation from that xray is nothing in comparison to the radiation i'll recieve to treat it. radiation exposure can be dangerous, but it can also save lives.

and, it should be said that cancer can happen to anyone. i've heard so many times that no one would look for cancer in a healthy twenty something. true, the chances are so small, but here i am...twenty four, and i'm in otherwise excellent health. cancer doesn't always make you sick, or present in ways we often associate it with. in fact, everyone i've met who's had hodgkin's was a healthy young adult at diagnosis (and they all are now, too). no one should ever feel that because they're healthy that they won't get cancer, or, that because they aren't healthy that they will. cancer is a crazy and unpredictable disease. no one should live in fear, but no one should live in the dark, either.

aside from the association of cancer and dying, the second strongest is probably cancer and it's treatment. our society hasn't done a good job displaying an accurate picture of all cancer treatment. it seems that we only ever see the worst case scenario. there are so many different types of treatments for cancer...chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, hormone therapy...and i'm sure the list goes on. chemotherapy is easily the most feared of them all. i've said this before, and i'll say it again...each cancer has a different chemo regimen, and mine is supposed to be one of the 'easiest'. i have treatment every fifteen days...i have side effects for four days (including the day of treatment), and then have ten good days. on the good days, you wouldn't know i was in the midst of cancer treatment. it's not easy, and it's not fun, but it's not nearly as bad as i thought it would be. we shouldn't be primed to fear treatment...because it sure beats the pants off the alternative to having treatment. and, as the nurses in my center always say, 'it's temporary'.

cancer isn't easy, but, it's a reality for so many people, and it will be a reality for so many more people in their lifetime. i hope one day we see ads on television that really promote awareness. you can't fight fear with avoidance. you can, however, fight fear with awareness. awareness that comes from really understanding what it's like to live with cancer, through cancer, and live on the other side of cancer. it's not easy, but ask any of the ten million cancer survivors in this can be done.

1 comment:

  1. Grace. My name is Chelsea... I found your blog through or whatever the website is. My husband was diagnosed with HL in November & we're trying to navigate this crazy path, like so many others.

    I just want to tell you- this blog post is one of the best that I've read. Probably ever. Thank you for this.