Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why is cancer so scary?

As I spent the last few days in a bit of a self-pity funk, by sleeping, reading, and fighting off a mild fever, I kept trying to figure out what makes the 'c' word so much more terrifying than everything else I've been through. I know you'll say, of course it does, it's cancer! But when compared to how I was around a year ago; when my body was clearly failing, my lungs were only working comfortably with a lot of equipment, and I barely had energy to go to the bathroom, this seems easy-peasy.

But yet, I'm much more flustered. It's possible that last year I had already accepted my lung decline for so long that I never had the stricken fear that I was going to die. It's also possible that I just didn't have enough energy to analyze the situation or panic.

There is something about the cancer diagnosis that brings a different set of fears and I'm not sure why. It may be because it's all unknown territory with the b-cells and lymphnodes, I feel like I'm going to have to learn a new language. The language of cancer. At least I knew what to expect with lung failure and had been expecting my entire life whereas Post Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder (PTLD) is an entirely new thing. I can't even pronounce it. It's also fairly rare so there isn't much to read about it except for some very confusing and boring medical articles. 

Cancer is also such a boogeymonster in our society where everyone knows they are susceptible but everyone thinks that it won't happen to them. The media doesn't help by washing everything pink along with their (often) misguided reporting every new study showing that a certain food or chemical causes cancer so don't miss your chance now to buy the new book 'cook to kill cancer' or 'top 10 foods on avoiding cancer.'

The good thing, at least, is that everyone seems to have that same gut punching reaction to being told about a cancer diagnosis. Maybe not specifically to PTLD (because no one's ever heard of it before) but I think people empathize more as they've most likely had someone they know have cancer. It hits a bit more home than chronic lung failure or chronic infection which they never really fear of getting. It's much more identifiable and it's also easier empathize while also easier to be hopeful. It's hard to be hopeful about chronic lung failure as there is no overcoming or 'winning' from it (except for a transplant, of course). But cancer, cancer can be beat. It can be won. People love using battle metaphors while describing cancer.

I'm not sure if I'm explaining this right. I'm immensely thankful for all the support everyone has shown me. I guess I'm trying to sort out why it now feels like I've joined some terrible club compared to when I got my diabetes diagnosis or when my lungs were failing. It seems so much heavier of a diagnosis even though I can't imagine how it can be worse than what I've already gone through (famous last words? I hope not.).

Although I remain hopeful that the lymph nodes will shrink significantly this week and no further treatment will be required, part of me is still freaking out. It did help to read a blog of someone else post-transplant, also diagnosed just under her one year mark, who underwent the 4 week treatment of the 'mild' chemotherapy and she didn't have many side-effects which is very hopeful. Today I'm feeling a bit better about the entire thing. Realizing that sleeping doesn't solve my problems, instead the way to solve my problems is to continue to bash things in Mario world on my computer. Muhahaha.
[Side story, I had a random tune stuck in my head for the past few days and I couldn't figure out what it was until I realized it was the MarioKart sound track. Isaiah and I have borrowed wireless remotes from a friend and clearly have been spending too much time zooming around.]


Hattie Dunstan said...

hey there! I'm that girls blog you read. i am almost 5 years cancer free! and almost 6 years post lung transplant. michelle referred me to your site. if you ever want to chat, i'm a real good cheerleader and listener! email me hattie.dunstan@gmail.com or shout me a message on FB!

Nadine B said...

I, too, faced the Big C word, Alley, although it was a different kind....and I understand how scary it all can seem just to hear that word. But I have to say, with all that you have already faced and overcome, if you can take on this new diagnosis with the same outlook you've already had with your previous challenges, then you've already won "the battle" (that description again!)
Hugs and Prayers to you! Nadine B