Today marks World Cancer Day and I wanted to talk some about personal experiences with this horrible disease. I’d wager that everyone knows someone that has been affected by cancer. Either as a victim or by losing someone they love. Two people close to me have fought their battles. I am sure many more will do so before my time is up.
My best friend suffered cancer when he was just a young man. He was in his early twenties with a young daughter when informed he had developed the disease. He fought his fight. It was before I knew him. Thankfully he survived and has been in remission ever since. I remember working with him one day – before I knew about the cancer – and discussing having children. For the longest time I said I never would. He replied I should be careful what I wished for, because some people didn’t have the choice.
He survived cancer but didn’t emerge unscathed. The treatment to rid him of the disease rendered him infertile. He was given the option to have his sperm frozen before the treatment began but declined. He had his daughter – what need did he have?
Sadly that relationship wasn’t to work out, and many years later, finally finding a woman who would tolerate him for the rest of her life, the question of kids came up. At great personal cost they went through IVF to fall pregnant; the shadow of cancer still looming after two decades.
My own far more personal entanglement with cancer has been written about on these pages on a number of occasions already.
I’ll never forget when she told me. She was sat on the bed in hospital, already extremely ill. She told me that she had cancer. I think I knew. Or I at least feared. She told me and I stood there dumbstruck. She then said, “It’s okay, it’s not contagious, you can give me a cuddle”. I held her then, close to me. I was numb. I tried to be strong but it was impossible to hold in the fear of losing her.
I spoke to her a couple of days later. She said she was going home to get strong before beginning treatment. I went to see my friend, my cancer-surviving best mate. I had such feelings of foreboding. I explained what she had said. His reply; “They don’t send you home to get strong; they send you home to be comfortable”. I think sometimes that she knew and she said what she said in order to protect me, to try and protect me anyway, from the finality of losing her.
The last time I saw her she was withered. In pain, medicated, exhausted. Cancer had destroyed her body and in some way sadistically spared her mind. She knew what was happening. And there was nothing she could do. She was the strongest person I ever had the privilege of knowing. This defeat by an uncaring, unfeeling enemy was brutal and unfair.
On today’s World Cancer Day consider that cancer can affect anyone. If can affect you and me. It doesn’t care about age, wealth, gender, colour, religion, sexuality. It’s an equal opportunities disease. If you can, consider donating to one of the many charities dedicated to finding a cure for this awful disease.
Do you have an experience you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.