I’m not “fighting” anything.
I understand why the term is used. I get it. The nature of cancer is one of opposition. There is a physical force attacking my body and left to it’s own devices, it will grow until it consumes me, so it only follows that we must halt it’s growth. A line is drawn in the sand. The battle is staged. Someone or something must become confrontational and “fight back”. But that someone or something is not me. I’m just along for the ride.
To be honest, on a daily basis, I’m rarely aware of my cancer, of “it” as an entity, doing something within my body. I don’t feel it. I don’t recognize it. So I don’t do battle with it. What I do experience is everything that surrounds the cancer, the discomfort, the pain, the bowel movements, the cold chills, the loss of appetite, and so on. All of that stuff is far more real to me than the cancer and that is what I deal with on a daily basis, but even so, I don’t look at how I handle all those externalities as a “fight”. Rather, I manage them. I deal with them as they come and make everything as comfortable for myself as possible.
The fight takes place elsewhere, with the doctors, nurses, and everyone else who has a hand in getting me on the operational bed. The fight takes place outside my realm of consciousness and physical ability, when the doctor slices me open with sterile, surgical knives. The fight is when they remove the mucin from my abdomen, scrape and cut the tumors from my organs. The fight is when they drip poisons in my body to continue to kill the unwanted oppositional force within me.
I’m not fighting. I’m just along for the ride.
I had noticeably disappointed her. Somehow, my waitress and I had gotten on the subject of my illness and as we talked it through she said,
“Well, you look good. You sound positive and upbeat.”
– “Yeah, well, I don’t know how else to handle this. Being miserable sure isn’t going to make the experience any better, right?”
“Yup, that’s what you have to do. Stay positive…and…and visualize. Visualize the cancer leaving your body.” *Pause* “Do you believe in that? Visualization and all that stuff?”
Feeling comfortable and blunt enough not to mince words, I replied without reservation,
“Nah. I really don’t. You know, I let the doctors and the oncologists do their thing and I’m just along for the ride. I put my trust in their work to take care of everything.”
She quickly averted her gaze downward, “Ooooh. Ok. Well, you seem to be in good spirits.”
But her disappointment was unsuccessfully veiled. Which is unfortunate. Whether she was conscious of the effect or not, her disappointment said, “You’re not trying. You’re not doing enough. You’re not trying to fight cancer. That’s too bad.”
And she’s right. I’m not trying to fight cancer. I can’t. I don’t have the surgical instruments. I don’t have the accumulated knowledge. I don’t have the years of training and repeated practice to remove cancer from my body. I guess, if you wanted to look at it this way, I’ve been fighting cancer all my life, by the lifestyle choices I’ve made up to the day my stomach was consumed with an unrelenting pain. I tried to fight it off as best I knew how, along with the fight against diabetes, heart disease, obesity, passivity, depression, and so on. And in that fight, I think I’ve done pretty damn good, but…..I guess you can’t win ’em all?
I don’t even like the phrase “Fight cancer”. Because it demands a winner and a loser…in a battle with no determined outcome. In this converging of forces, cancer often wins. Let’s not talk kindly about the truth. It’s been winning for awhile, no matter how hard we fight or not. It’s a formidable opponent. But even worse, when one side “wins” it demands that the other side “loses”. There is no way around that. There is no “draw” between cancer and the victim. There is no second place ribbon. In a fight there is a winner and a loser, and no one put in the position against cancer should ever be subjected to the idea that they might “lose” the fight, especially when they have no honest ability to step into the battle and deliver their own blows. Those that die from cancer didn’t “lose”. The whole experience is tragic and without words to describe its full effect on the individual, so the last thing a cancer patient needs is the added stigma of losing the fight they couldn’t even be a part of.
Nor should we even say those that DO have the ability to battle cancer, the doctors and nurses, have lost. Again, the opponent is formidable. It is strong and it’s weaponry and survival strategy continues to prove more powerful than ours. No one is at fault for cancer taking lives. It just does. It doesn’t win by doing so and no one loses by doing so.
But I understand the sentiment. To say “fight cancer” is to simply offer encouragement, to lend a positive dynamic to the experience. It is to enable a sense of hope and independence in the cancer patient, to lend the idea that they DO have volition, a sense of agency over their circumstance. Which isn’t entirely untrue. At the risk of being mildly hypocritical, I DO believe in the value of harboring a positive demeanor, of strengthening the body through positive thought.
Regardless, I worry about taking the “fight cancer” sentiment too far, of drawing that line in the sand. I worry about inherently creating opponents and, therefore, an inevitable “winner” and an inevitable “loser”.
And maybe all this is why I respond more favorably to “Fuck Cancer.”
There is no allusion to a battle. It is simply a statement of both well-placed frustration and equal parts encouragement. It is to say, “This sucks. I’m sorry. I hate it. Whatever it is we can do against it, let’s do that. And let’s hope for the best.”
The doctors are going to do battle with cancer. They are going to “fight” it. My hope is not to win or even create a loser. My goal is to simply survive the whole ordeal. That is more than enough for me, as someone who is directly dealing with cancer, and so I hope that it should be enough for everyone else. Never perceive someone as not fighting cancer, not taking the proper course of action or not protecting themselves. Trust me, we’re doing everything we feel is in our individual power. No matter the terms you choose to use, “fight cancer” or “fuck cancer”, we’re all hoping for the same outcome.