Posted by: chlost | December 6, 2010

That damn cancer!

Perhaps it is a function of my age. When you get to your fifties, it is likely that more and more of your friends and family will die. It is just statistics, I guess.  I have to admit, though that I never expected it to begin this soon.

Cancer seems to be everywhere around me. Is it me or is it getting more prevalent these days?  We seem to take it for granted-no one finds it very surprising any more.

I remember the first person I knew who had cancer. It was Dorothy, my best friend’s mom. It was in the late 60’s. I was about 12. That would make Dorothy about 35 or so. She and my mom were very close friends. She had breast cancer. She went to a brand new type of hospital far from home that specialized in treating cancer. In those days, they were just starting with chemo therapy. It was not spoken about in polite company. She lost all of her hair. It was a big deal. No one really knew that hair loss was part of the treatment and no one celebrated the loss of hair with fancy scarves and hats the way they do now. She tried to wear a wig. 

But everyone knew. The wig looked horrible.

The most recent person I know who has died of cancer is Sharon.

 When I found out that my friend Brad’s sister Sharon died on Saturday of thyroid cancer, I began to list in my mind all of the people I have known personally who have had cancer. These are people within my personal sphere-I have known or been related to all of them. These people have been  part of the “inner ring” of my life, I guess you would say ( the ** indicates survivors):

Dorothy, breast cancer; my stepmother Anne, lung cancer; my mother-in-law Marjorie, lymphoma; Marjorie’s brother Bob, prostate cancer; Bob’s wife Pat, lung cancer; my husband’s aunt Grace, colon cancer; my husband’s uncle Clint, prostate cancer; my high school friend Jan, brain tumor; our friend Shelley’s brother mesothelioma (lung); my children’s high school friend Kyleen, breast cancer**, my children’s high school friend Cora,  Hodgkins **, my cousin Todd, Hodgkins**, my husband’s nephew, John, Hodgkins**, my friend’s sister, Sharon, thyroid; my husband’s cousin’s husband Bill, thyroid**, my sister-in-law’s dad Bill, lymphoma; my sister-in-law’s mom Jeannette, lung cancer; the man with whom I shared office space, Harold, prostate cancer; Harold’s secretary Lois, lung cancer; my friend Amber’s daughter Kathy, breast cancer**; my full of life friend Orpha, leukemia.

I know that there are more, I just can’t come up with all of them as I sit here to write this. Even as it is, the list seems unusually long to me.

What have we gained over the past 40 years since Dorothy’s death? So many runs, walks, celebrity fundraisers, yogurt tops, box tops, silly bands, pink ribbons. What has it gotten us in real returns on fighting cancer? I know that there are some cancers which are much more successfully treated than others. Thank goodness for the advances in treatments which allowed my mother-in-law several additional months with a remission. We were able to have a wonderful 75th birthday party for her before her death, and she felt healthy at the time. It is wonderful that the success rate for  Hodgkins is good, with all of the young people who seem to have been diagnosed in the prime of their life.

The cynic in me (and anyone who knows me knows that I am at my core a cynic, no matter how many positives I have been able to identify recently) sees a medical system which is entrenched in a cancer treatment protocol. The system which involves the diagnosis, treatment and end of life care for cancer patients is huge. It is a very prosperous business. The drug companies make a LOT of money on the treatment of cancer.  There is a lot of expensive equipment used for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. There are whole hospitals and universities devoted to cancer. The entire medical practice of Oncology has been developed around cancer.

Yes, the cynic and conspiracy-theory part of me wonders, “What would come of all of this if cancer were cured? What would happen if there were no more cancer? If treatments were not necessary?”

 Then my realistic side gets back in control.

When that happens, I am just sad. Sad at the loss of so many friends and family members from a terrible disease- that damn cancer.

————— I can’t say anything more.                  I’m sorry. ————

Then, as I  promised, I turn my mind to find a few positive things from the day.  Here’s what I’ve got:

December 5, 2010:

1. I had a good telephone conversation with my oldest son.

2. I had a good conversation with my friend Brad.

3. I made a big pot of black bean chili.

 Sharon, Anne, Bill, Bob, Pat, Grace, Clint, and all of the others would love to have had that kind of day today.

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Responses

  1. That list, is indeed, too long. Hate to agree, but your right. A cure would put a lot of people out of work, business losses would be huge. Hope you and I are both wrong. My theory is that more cancer is due to the additives, hormones, antibiotics that are fed to animals and added to our food.
    On a personal note – you are up to date on mammogram – right?

    • Ha! I just got my note in the mail to get my appointment scheduled!! Making that phone call today!

  2. What a sad and sorry list. You did well to find some positives at the end of that day. We all need to find something to enjoy each day as a tribute to those who wished to live too but cannot. It is a lesson to never waste a single day.
    Sorry for your pain.

    • That is one of the reasons that I am trying to change my point of view. I don’t want to waste the days that others would cherish were they here to enjoy them.

  3. My best friend Jo said once, if only I could have had more than 2 years. Now breast cancer survivors make it up to eight years even if it has metastasized. She would be very happy about that. But I like you have had too many family and friends with cancer. Mother, father, grandma, gimpa, two best friends 20 year apart, and special people like Janey and lee that died this year.

    Sometimes it seems infinitely sad and endless.

    My focus this year is to be of a more positive outlook on everything.


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