Somewhere between a mammogram and a loving embrace, a stranger decided to invade my left breast. “It’s cancer,” the radiologist said defensively, as if it was his fault.
Technically, the stranger is made of my own rogue cells. I don’t understand why they’ve decided on a hostile take-over. Maybe, they think it will make things better, but anarchists don’t understand how a rabble brings chaos, not justice.
My scientific training denies me the luxury of denial. I don’t want to be here, but I have no choice.
Why? Why? Why?
Is it because my DNA can’t handle nightly martinis? Have I irradiated my cells with too much sunlight, or poisoned myself with too many pieces of bacon? Perhaps my immune system has never forgiven me for the cigarettes I smoked when I was a student, or is sick of me stressing over things that shouldn’t concern me.
As bullies usually do, this stranger started with the easiest target: a soft breast, ripe for a coup with its population of rampaging hormones. I thought I could handle bullies, but now I’m a victim. Caught in a violence I never saw coming, and have no way of stopping, I’m running through dark alleys, trying to find an escape.
When I stop running, and stand to face my diagnosis, I’m the casualty looking at a car wreck, wishing I could turn back time and not be injured. Then, the stranger is me. That stranger has cancer.
I don’t want to be here, in this time and place. I grieve for my past health. There’s no comfort in the future. There is only the NOW, or sadness and fear.
A lifetime of low-grade depressive thinking is shocked into a heightened sense of awareness. Colours are brighter; flavours, sound and touch interweave into a fascinating tapestry; the streets smell of spring time; every passing stranger has a good reason for being in my world.
After the adrenaline shock, life returns to normal until the 3 am Whale Of Doom breaches in daylight. Then, I’m getting teary in the supermarket, worrying what will happen to the people I love if I’m not here. Who will know their secrets? Will they be lonely? Do they feel helpless because they can’t fix me?
Finally, bureaucracy lumbers in, stomping over petals of kindness, strewn my way from unexpected and expected places. The compassion of health professionals is smothered by paper work, and I’m lost in a limbo of unknown dangers; just another statistic in the cancer administration.
Living causes death, but when the finality takes shape in our future, survival depends on how we make the final approach. I have a condition where medical science is winning the battle, but delay of the inevitable, offered by treatment, is small consolation. Nothing and nobody can hold my hand tight enough to halt my journey to that ultimate destination.
So, here I go: a minuscule knot of energy in a vast and powerful universe. I can choose to see myself as unimportant, or I can choose to be a part of something infinitely wonderful. An insignificant cabal of rebel cells doesn’t rate a mention in the scheme of things.
4 Replies to “The Uninvited Stranger”
Whao! That was powerful. Thank you for giving others the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.
My dear friend, Alice, had breast cancer thirty years ago, at about the age of sixty. They operated, but she had a relapse. She quickly recognised the signs and they operated again.
She died this January at the age of ninety, having refused to take heart medication that would have allowed her to go on longer. She said ninety years was enough.
It is so good to know that cancer can be beaten.
Life is death. That is inevitable. Cancer makes us face our mortality more realistically. We know death is at the end of our journey, but when?. Youth is bliss. We have no fear. The diagnosis of any disease that may be terminal is confronting. Melanoma, coronary heart disease, even diabetes. Our numbers get stacked to the negative against our survival. At this point, confronted bluntly by our mortality, we question why?. We must seek the most advanced sources of scientific knowledge in medicine to combat our demise. That today is so accessible with both word of mouth, and more so, internet technology. We are so more empowered in our destiny to combat the negative odds. Then once we decide the medical path, we trust our decision has been correct. Medicine and science can only offer so much. They are not God nor the Devine, nor the spiritual, that some can question-why?. They are humans. We have so much more to learn through time. If destiny devine’s your definite demise, and medical and scientific knowledge fails your future existence, then what is so important is life’s meaning. I live every day, that when I die-I pray my life had meaning.
Beautiful words that have given me lots to think about.