I Have Cancer

I picked up a few cancer books at our local book store the other day, even went back for a few more now that I am going through chemotherapy. One of the books is by Lori Hope, a cancer patient herself, titled "Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer want You to Know". Her book is full of ideas that I would like to share. Her book is full of stories and antidotes that you don't have time to read but you still need to know. If I could I would make a tri-fold pamphlet titled: "Shut Up and Read This Before You Open Your Mouth." But that is a bit harsh and I'm not sure I could fit all I want to say on a piece of paper. Instead I will just blog about my feelings and thoughts.

But here is the truth about why I am going to blog about this. My dander is up because of a few things people have said to me now that I have cancer. One very well meaning person (they all are well meaning and just don't know how to deal or talk to me) continues to hound me how it is my diet that made me get cancer. I have another well meaning person tell me it was because of all the stress I have in my life. I've been told that it is just something that God knew I could handle. I was just told via facebook that my emotions have caused my cancer. Supposedly two years ago something "emotionally tragic" happened in my life and it caused my cells to go haywire. Even if any of this is true, it doesn't do one thing to help me feel better or get well. All of the above is just plain garbage. JUST GARBAGE!

First off, people need to understand what cancer really is. If you want a good primer about cancer pick up one of these two books: "Everything You Need to Know About Cancer," by Matthew D. Galsky, MD and "Chemotherapy & Radiation for Dummies," by Alan R. Lyss, MD, Humberto M. Fagundes, MD and Patricia Corrigan (all cancer patients and survivors).

Here in a nutshell is what cancer is, oh, and just so you know--every one has cells that are cancerous, they just have been taken care of by the body's defenses. Everyone of your cells (and you have gazillions in your body) has an instruction manual (DNA) and that instruction manual tells the cell what to do. It may tell it to be a skin cell or a lung cell or a blood cell. Your body is reproducing and replacing cells all the time so the cells use the DNA to know what to do (transfer oxygen, protect your body, transfer signals, etc.) For the most part the Xerox machine does itsjob properly and the cells are exact duplicates. But every now and then some of the instructions don't get copied exactly as they should. Somehow the genes in the cell get smudged and the reproduction is screwed up. The new cells do not know how to die--their instructions are all screwed up and the body doesn't get rid of them before they start piling up. If it is a breast cell then you have breast cancer. If it is a lung cell then it is lung cancer. My haywire cells clumped together in my lymph system. That's why I have Lymphoma (non-Hodgkin's to be exact).

Here is a fact that also will help you understand cancer. The average cancer with average speed in growth will take four years to go from the first haywire replication to a lump the size of a small grape. That is usually when the patient has the first symptom that something is wrong either by feeling or pain. FOUR YEARS!

A few cancers have things that you can to do help them develop but even then it is hard to say that "you caused" your own cancer. Skin, lung and cervical cancer are the only cancers that have a known cause and it is all behavioral. There are many people who get lung cancer who have never smoked or been around an agent that causes lung cancer. There are those who have smoked (excessively so) for years and yet never get lung cancer. Cervical cancer is caused by a virus and of course skin cancer is caused by exposure to sun. There is no way to predict when your cells will go haywire--NO WAY!

Enough ranting, let's get back to the article at hand. The twenty things that Lori Hope thinks you should know are:
1. It's okay to say or do the "wrong" thing.
2. I don't know why I got cancer, and I don't want to hear your theory.
3. I need to know you're here for me (and if you aren't, why not).
4. I like to hear success stories, not horror stories.
5. I am terrified.
6. I need you to listen to me and let me cry.
7. Asking my permission can spare me pain.
8. I need to forget--and laugh.
9. I need to feel hope.
10. Telling me to think positively can make me feel worse.
11. I want you to trust my judgment and my treatment decisions.
12. I want compassion, not pity; comfort, not advice.
13. I am more than my cancer: treat me kindly, not differently.
14. I want you to help without my asking you to.
15. I like to be held in your thoughts or prayers.
16. My moods change from day to day; please forgive me if I snap at you.
17. Hearing platitudes or what's good about cancer can trivialize my feelings.
18. I need you to understand if I don't return your call or want to see you.
19. I want my caregiver to take good care of herself or himself.
20. I don't know if I'm cured, and bringing up my health can bring me down.

In her afterwards she adds some more:
Treat me with kid gloves, but don't let me know it.
I need to be touched (but please ask permission first).
I want to be indulged.
I like it when you express confidence in my ability to make the right decisions.
I want you to help me believe in miracles.
When you say you are going to do something for me, follow through quickly.
Being sick costs a lot; offer to treat meto a meal, maybe even insist.
I want you to be honest with me.
I don't always like to be asked about my cancer.
Don’t tell me I'll be fine.
I don't want to be blamed for having cancer.
Often I want and need quiet.
I am unique, unlike anyone else with cancer.
I don't want to hear how awful I look.
I don't want to be labeled.
I will talk about my cancer, if I feel the need to.
I don't feel contagious or tainted.
I need to have privacy.
It's hard for me to hear about your fears.
I need to believe that I will live through this.
I need to acknowledge my feelings.

And I will add one more:
I need to feel loved.
I read on someone's cancer blog that having cancer is like being led to the door of hell and knocking on it. Satan answers and says, "Oh, you. We aren't ready for you yet. Just wait here." You then sit at hells door waiting, feeling the everlasting fire and torment.
I know what it is to feel that. I have felt that in my quiet reflective moments. But I have also felt the opposite. I have felt the love of those that surround me, pray for me and visit me. I have felt those words that are spoken in the poem "Footprints."

"Sometimes there are two sets of footprints,
Other times there is one set of footprints."

I know it isn't just God who has carried me through this trial, but those that truly can leave physical footprints.