I had cancer seven years ago. Twice. It was surprisingly mundane and not at all the horrible spectacle that you think about when someone says the C word. I had a few surgeries and a whole lot of monitoring scans and that was about it. Despite the rather pedestrian nature of my disease and treatment, I can’t say that I would recommend it, even to my worst enemies (almost all of whom are entirely imaginary, or myself).
There was never really a moment when I did the whole ‘why me’ pity party thing. Sure, I was more than a little bit bummed about it, but I did my best to take it at face value and play my hand as it had been dealt.
Recently, I had a cancer scare that generated some interesting trains of thought.
Generally speaking, you are cleared from treatment after six years of monitoring without recurrence. Being the relatively anxious person that I am, though, I’ve elected to continue annual blood-work with my Oncologist to keep an eye on things.
During this annual check, one of my blood markers decided to rise slightly outside of the normally accepted level. A redraw showed further increasing levels. This is cause for concern. Alarm bells are ringing. A third test showed a decrease in levels, which was a good sign, but still outside of what is considered the normal range. All of my other markers were within normal ranges, which was encouraging, but I needed to CT Scan and chest X-ray to visually assess my innards for tumors and whatnot.
The CT was clean, but the X-ray showed an artifact that was most likely nothing. Of course, the person calling to tell me this did not read the report correctly. So instead of hearing that there was no real cause for concern, and a follow up image was necessary to verify this, I was told that there was a 1.9 centimeter nodule on my left lung, and I would need to get a CT of my chest to determine what it was. Testicular cancer has an astoundingly good prognosis. Lung cancer, on the other hand, does a pretty swell job of killing people.
Thankfully, that scan verified what the radiologist thought – the ‘nodule’ on my lung was just an artifact on the X-ray and there was no cause for concern.
Here’s the thing though – every third thought I had during those few weeks was a variation of ‘Why me?’ All I could think about was dying before my daughter could even remember me. Being a father, and hopefully a good one, is my newest and strongest purpose in life, and it seemed extremely unfair that this privilege could be stripped away from me so quickly.
This is completely unfair.
Why would this happen to me?
Toward the end of this agonizing period of time, I came to accept a very unhappy reality. Why not me? After all, I have a personal and familial history of cancer. It makes more sense for me to have cancer again than for many other people. Accepting that fairness had exactly nothing to do with this made the last couple of days easier before getting the good news about my clean bill of health.
I’m not special. I do not possess some magical device that prevents me from getting cancer or dying younger than I would like. I lack a supernatural control over the non-existent demigod we call fairness. Awful things happen to people all the time without reason. I wasted a lot of my time during those weeks being worried, afraid, and angry. Worse than that, I was not present during that time. If the prognosis turned out to be less than good, this was precious time wasted being a selfish prick instead of spending incredibly valuable time with my family.
My Papa always said that worry was like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. Stop wasting your time on all of these bullshit pity parties, waiting on your specialness to sprinkle some magic snowflakes on it and make it all go away.
None of us are special enough that we have immunity to negativity. Bad things will happen. Accept it, and focus on dealing with the issue at hand – you might actually learn something or gain some new skills. In my case, I gained a greater appreciation of my family, which was completely worth the stress.