I think everybody who is living in close quarters with cancer develops a kind of personal relationship with it and this can influence how they cope. Some treat the barbarian invader with reverence and imagine themselves as warriors doing battle with it. They are knights in shining armor, getting ready to slay the mighty dragon. But my attitude is, to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield,
“The ‘Big C’ ain’t gonna get no respect from me”.
It’s not as if I don’t know that the cancer is clever and conniving and hell-bent on destruction. And that it has mastered every evolutionary trick in the book in order to outwit us, its human hosts.
But I also see the enemy for what it is — a mindless collection of damaged cells that are clinging to life at all cost. Just as we would. Too bad the only food they have to eat is us.
You know what the docs call cancer? “Disorganized”. Well, that’s an understatement. Because in normal tissue the cytoplasm that makes up the cells is neatly clustered around the nucleus. And the cells are uniform and “well-differentiated”. But cancer cells twist themselves into all sorts of shapes and straggle about in all directions as if demented. If your prostate cancer includes the more aggressive Gleason grades 4 or 5 and you have seen a picture of your biopsy slides, you will know what I’m talking about (see photo at end).
Make no mistake, I will do everything in my power to evict the “unwanted guest” that has taken up residence in my husband’s body. But I don’t see the struggle as personal. I know the cancer doesn’t hate anyone, nor does it get any satisfaction out of the torture it inflicts.
And if you think about it, a cancer’s life is pathetic. It can’t enjoy a Bach cantata or swoon before a beautiful sunset. All cancer cells do is reproduce endlessly, and there’s no fun in that because it’s an asexual, strictly solitary affair. No steamy nights in bed with a lover.
But by far the ultimate irony is the stupidity of cancer. Think about it: if it kills you, it kills itself. And leaves behind no fond memories or adorable grandchildren.
For me, laughing at the cancer detoxifies it. Others may use a sword, but I will vanquish the enemy with humor.
I know this attitude doesn’t work for everybody. Of course I get angry at times, but I direct that anger toward doctors and insurance companies — at least you can try to reason with them.
Coming Soon: Master comedy writer Jerry Perisho’s healing humor.