I’m gradually working my way through all the folders on my laptop trying to get them into some semblance of order. I’ve backups on memory sticks and an external hard-drive which are in an equally large muddle. I’ve even got folders labelled “not to be deleted in case they contain something useful” and “probably not needed any more but keep just in case”.
But as I work my way through the files I occasionally find something I wrote months or years ago that stops me in my tracks.
I wrote the following for a blog I’ve since deleted but find it as meaningful now as then.
When I received my cancer diagnosis back in 2017, I had a lot of support from a Macmillan nurse at my local hospital. And I found lots more useful information on the Macmillan website.
On the Macmillan website it says that “For many of us cancer will be the toughest fight we ever face.” And I certainly found that to be true in the first weeks of the diagnosis.
But one day, I read a different take on learning to live with cancer which I found reflected my thinking much more.
On the CNN website, journalist Xeni Jardin, a cancer survivor, wrote “Why cancer is not a war, fight, or battle.”
For me, cancer never felt like a war. Cancer wasn’t something I “had,” but a process my body was going through. Brutal but effective medical treatment paused that process, as far as I know today. By the grace of science and God, I’m alive with no evidence of active disease as I share these words. It’s as close to “cured” or “winning” as I get, one day at a time. And I’ll take it, with gratitude.
I am no warrior. I just showed up to my medical appointments, did what I was told, and lived as best I could.
During this odd era in which facts, truth, and reality itself seem to be up for grabs, I’d like to propose that with cancer we just call it what it is. War is war. Cancer is cancer. Cancer is a disease of cellular biology in which some cells stop obeying the good instructions they’ve been given. They hog the body’s shared resources, and replicate over and over again, until the body’s own organs cannot carry out the basic functions we need for life to continue.
Read the whole article here.
Xeni’s closing words are inspirational:
We don’t know how any cancer patient’s life will unfold. What will become of any one of us is not ours to know. All that any of us can do is try to live today as best we can.
Reading Xeni’s article again in 2021 after experiencing many months of chemotherapy followed by major surgery, I find myself reflecting on the significance of her words to me.
My original diagnosis was terminal and the treatment offered was to try and extend my life for as long as possible. That my liver tumour shrunk so much and the cancer cells in my pelvis were eradicated was an unexpected and unplanned consequence of the treatment. At the end of the first six months of treatment, the oncologist actually said, “It’s a miracle!”
As the months of treatment passed and the cancer markers in my blood were massively diminished to the point where all the doctors agreed that surgery could have a good outcome, I knew I wasn’t a warrior. I’d accepted all the drugs that were offered, prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
My November CT scan and blood tests indicated that I was cancer free. I’m having more blood tests in a couple of weeks and the next CT scan in a couple of months. As Xeni says, we don’t know how any cancer patient’s life will unfold. What I know is that every day I thank our NHS for giving me a chance to live for longer than expected and I’ll try to live each day as best I can.
Thanks for reading my blog today.