Monday, March 26, 2007

The big C

I read three different op-ed pieces today about Mrs. Edwards and her cancer. All were well-meaning and sincere in their wish that she lives many long years.

But each of them talked about her "courage" and "bravery" in going on with her life pretty much as it was, at least till fatigue from chemo sets in.

I question the words "courage" and "bravery" for a simple reason. Like Mrs. Edwards, I have incurable but treatable cancer. But I'm a long way from being courageous or brave. I go on with my life pretty much as it was for a simple reason--what's the alternative?

Each piece also mentions a mythical person who "just gives up and dies." I suppose there are people like this but in five years including three substantial stays at Mayo I've yet to meet a cancer patient who did that.

On my last trip to Mayo I lay five hours a day in a ward where we were all having our blood pumped through machines for a stem cell harvest. Of the eight people on the ward, two seemed to me to be very near death. But even they joined in with the rest of us talking about what we were going to do when we finally got to go back home.

And it wasn't anything fancy. It was just going back home and getting on with our lives. Again--what else would we do? I've had jobs since I was ten years old. I know no alternative to work. I'm not as prolific as I once was but maybe as a result the books are a bit better. Maybe. But the point is, if I didn't get up every morning and head immediately to my office to work (I eat breakfast after I get 750 words or so down on the screen) how would I spend my time?

I'm cerainly not belittling what Mrs. Edwards is going through. I take chemo every day orally and then have an infusion once a month to keep my spine from cracking. That's a very easy regimen compared to what lies ahead for her. But as she was quick to say words such as "courage" and "bravery" are well-meant but maybe too much.

I'll add a PS here. I have met a few UNbrave cancer patients, those being men who are so afraid of dying they take their fear out on their wives. One guy I liked and respected became somebody I wanted punch out by the time he shuffled off. He treated his wife horribly. Hard to imagine she wasn't relieved to see him go.

1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

I was sorry to hear that Mrs. Edwards' cancer had returned. I had bot known about your bouts either. Luck to both of you. My sister passed away a few years ago of breast cancer after battling it for years, so I know somewhat you've gone through.