This morning at Cookridge, we got the results of the scan taken two weeks ago.
Big smiles all round as the new (schoolboy!) registrar told us that there had been a further 35% reduction in the size of the liver tumour. (On top of the 50% reduction shown in the January scan)
Elaine is still at the hospital. It’s double chemo day so I’ll return to pick her up later but wanted to share the good news.
One of the problems I have is in the language people currently use to talk about cancer. It’s nearly always tied up with metaphors and images of battle, losing, winning etc. It may be a useful enough way to think about it at first but the problem is that where there are winners there are also losers and if your cancer returns as mine has I think you can feel more defeated if you’ve got into using the figurative language of battle than if you haven’t.
I can’t really explain to anyone how utterly awful, angry, aghast & yes defeated I felt when my cancer returned after a brief absence. I felt as if I’d done all the “right” things ie adopted a vegan diet, had acupuncture, herbalism and homeopathy in addition to conventional medicine, meditated and above all maintained a spirited determination to overcome it. If all it took was having a positive outlook (as so many people seem to think is all you need) then cancer wouldn’t have dared to come back into my body.
I remember something that my late aunt Florence said and that I have often pondered on especially since I’ve had cancer myself. She had breast cancer at 40 and survived it, lung cancer at 57 necessitating the removal of one lung which she also survived before dying finally at the age of 74 from a brain tumour which amazingly turned out to be a secondary from her lung cancer of 17 years previously.
She said that she got very angry when she read in the papers about people saying they were going to fight cancer and that they were sure they’d win. “When I had my lung cancer I didn’t want to win. Uncle Stan (her late husband) had just died and I was desperate to join him. I hoped I’d die and yet I lived. Having a fighting spirit and a positive outlook is nothing at all to do with it. When your time’s up, your time’s up.”
I often think about this and a large part of me believes that she was right. The emphasis put by the media and some people on fighting cancer etc makes those of us in whom it has returned feel like failures, as if there is more we could have done to stop this bloody dreadful scourge from ravaging our bodies. In many ways it places the “blame” on the sufferers.
I can’t think of any other language we could use in describing either cancer or the struggle of individuals against it and I have been thinking about this for some time.