|New England Holocaust Memorial|
Reflecting on the trip now, I keep thinking about the stories I have heard from other cancer victims or their families and loved ones. Of course, I knew some of these stories before the disease struck me, but they resonate more strongly with me now. I feel a little ashamed admitting this. I should have felt more empathy when hearing any story of a debilitating or deadly illness, not just after it had afflicted me. A little older...
Do you have any cancer stories of your own? If not, it won't be long before you do.
Here are just a few stories I know, but there are plenty more:
- There's my Uncle Jack on my mother's side. He died of throat cancer in 1975 at the age of 51, leaving a wife and three children. I was 12 then and this was the first time I had ever heard of cancer, and I remember my mother saying that his death was ironic because he was the fitness buff in the family with a heart 'as strong as a horse's'. Cancer does not only attack the weak.
- My friends Tania and Angela have both had scares with skin cancer as young women. Both are doing well now.
- A business associate of mine lost her father to cancer a few years ago. He was just in his 50's and it was all through his abdomen, though they believe it started in his colon. She is the eldest of four children, and her father lamented that he wouldn't live to see his daughters married. I don't know her very well, but I think she carries some regret around with her still. It isn't just the people with cancer who suffer, it's everyone close to them.
- I've never met Nadia before, but she commented in an earlier post on this blog about her battle. Her doctor missed the warning signs and she battled Stage IV colorectal cancer, the worst stage, and was told to put her affairs in order and prepare for the worst. She fought back and won and is still going strong many years later.
- My Aunt Nancy (or aunt Fancy as my wee daughter used to call her) fought two separate battles in recent years with different cancers. She is ok now.
- My wife went to nursing school with her best friend Helen. At her own wedding shower when she was just 25, Helen showed her friends some lumps on her neck. During a subsequent biopsy the doctor immediately knew this was cancer in her lymph nodes, and it was so pervasive through her body they never were able to identify where the primary cancer came from. She was dead in 5 months. Think of what a wonderful nurse and mother she would have been. She never knew she was sick, although she would complain of a little indigestion now and then. Cancer is a phantom, a wraith that stalks and kills people without them even knowing.
According to the World Health Organization, about 6 million people died of cancer in 2010. That's 6 million individual stories, and the stories of people close to those who died. That's one entire holocaust memorial every year.
Cancer is a scourge and a plague. I started off writing this blog thinking it would help me exorcise some of my own lingering feelings about my experience, and I've even been playing it for laughs because let's face it, that's the only way to cope sometimes. But now I can see I have another hope. I want to hear more stories like mine: early diagnosis; fast, effective treatment; cure.
And someday maybe we'll even know why and move on to prevention. When I got sick and started looking into colon cancer specifically, I was really astounded to learn that we don't even really know what causes it. Maybe it's red meat, maybe it's hereditary, maybe it's alcohol, maybe it's Obama. There's a fair bit of risk factor type data but as far as I know, not much that denotes a direct link.
9,000 Canadians gone last year and we don't even know why.