Cancer isn’t selective. It is, however, divisive.
It can be the fine line between life and death.
It is definitely the line between a good night’s sleep and hours of wakeful terror.
It draws the line between those who have received a cancer diagnosis, however given (in my own case a gentle, “I’m 90% sure we’re dealing with lymphoma”), and those who haven’t. It draws a line between your ‘old’ life and a life that rapidly becomes filled with hospital appointments and the whole new language that comes with treatment. It forces you to make decisions about that treatment, and therefore implicitly your future. My immediate worry was about the mortgage, and what would happen to those I loved if I didn’t make it. At that point, after a difficult few years, I wasn’t in a position to secure their future. But something else happens too. In Blog #4, way back in the early days as I was starting treatment, I wrote,
“There is something amazing about the human spirit and its capacity for survival; whatever the situation, there is a primal instinct that draws us together in times of danger. We become a clique, a special club. Was it Groucho Marx who said that he didn’t want to be a member of any club that would have him as a member? He hadn’t been on a cancer ward. I was welcomed with smiles and kindness by everyone, and I feel very safe.”
And it’s true. Being part of that special club opens doors, gets us a special discount (sorry, but it’s always a pleasant surprise), it breaks the ice at parties, helps to start difficult conversations and it brings people together from the four corners of the world like possibly nothing else can. The staff on the wards were the cheeriest I’d ever met, and they considered themselves to be doing true nursing. I heard that there was a waiting list to join the cancer unit because it was here they could make a difference, whether that involved sitting with someone while they bawled their eyes out (me) or laughing their socks off at a silly YouTube video sent by their son (also me) or administering toxic drugs (all of us). Cancer may be divisive, but it is also inclusive, and in Breast Cancer Awareness Month I would like to extend our thoughts to every single person facing any kind of cancer – no matter how rare, how common, or how fancy its name. Spread the love, people. Let’s do it.
Sending much love