I was driving home from yoga this morning at some ungodly hour, the sun wasn’t even up yet — I got that post-sickness surge of energy, I guess, I was awake at 5:15 ready to go! And then I went in to practice and got through twenty minutes of sun salutations and my body said, Boy howdy, that’s enough. I’m trying to practice every day come hell or high water so it’s inevitable that some days I only have about that much yoga in me before I need to lie down and think about death.
So, I was driving back home at 6:45 listening to NPR and I came in half-way through a story about a local breast cancer awareness festival or something, and the woman who’s running it was explaining how cancer is not a death sentence, blah blah blah. But then she framed her topic in a way I hadn’t heard before, she said how for a lot of people cancer is more like diabetes, it’s a disease they live with and manage. Yeah, their lives might be shorter than if it hadn’t come down on them, but they’re healthy for the most part and going to work and making plans and hanging in there. Managing.
Having had parents who dealt with both cancer (mom, breast) and diabetes (dad, type II), I can say from my somewhat casual yet freaked-out personal observation of my family’s experience (I had a panic attack when I first saw my mom in her chemo wig) that the diabetes was a giant, every hour of the day pain in the ass, whereas the breast cancer had its year and then it was done. However, my dad was kind of a drama queen and my mom not so much, so the personality of them that’s afflicted could be coloring my view of their respective maladies. And certainly there are 1,000 different kinds of clinging, mutant cancers that would kick the ass of what they lumpectomied out of my mom, that’s a given.
But still. People, all around, managing it. Some better than others.
Jack and I know a woman who had a really unusual, sluggish cancer. It was one of those things where maybe forty cases of it had ever been diagnosed, it just hung around in her body making her a little achy and whatnot, but they got it out (laproscopically) and she didn’t even go through any chemo or radiation, her doctor hadn’t seen it do any good in the other cases he’d worked on. She happened to tell me all this over lunch a while back, we were by a swimming pool, everybody was sitting around half naked picking at fruit salad and watching the kids.
Now, if you know me, you know that if you have a disease I WANT TO HEAR ALL ABOUT IT. No detail is too gruesome or impolite to share. So I’m sitting there next to Jack at the pool in my bikini going, “And then what did the doctor say?!” while he’s sighing and quietly pushing away his tuna sandwich. Jack’s normally so unflappable I just forget, I forget that Jack’s step-dad died of cancer, that his sister and his mom have had cancer, colleagues have died of cancer, cancer is a sore spot, he’s surrounded by cancer and doesn’t want to have his lunch with a side of CANCER.
I’m glad he wasn’t with me that time on an airplane while I was straining to eavesdrop on the two people in the row in front of me. The man was saying how different cancers come and go in our bodies all the time but our immune systems knock them out and we go on living without ever knowing they’d been there.
(If there was ever a reason to take care of yourself as best you can, people: there it is. Just to buffer your odds.)
Anyway, I don’t know what my point was here, if it was to let you know that you can talk about your cancer or your bad teeth or your hideous foot fungus with me any time, or to tell you that people all around us have cancer and that there’s no point in weaving their shrouds just yet, or to tell you to take care of yourself but that if you end up getting cancer it’s probably not your fault, this shit just happens and we don’t know why, my goddamned dog had cancer and she never smoked a day in her life.
Astrologically, however, cancer is a very nice sign! My son is a cancer! And I have had to clarify for him that just because he is a cancer does not mean that he will get cancer!