A sliding scale

Words and images of battle are often ascribed to cancer.  Some cancerchicks take issue with that but I’m not one of them. Having written this blog — mostly about cancer — for the last year, I’ve come to realize that it’s hard to talk about a cancer battle without well, calling it a battle. I’m not even sure what else one would call it. “While undergoing treatment for breast cancer” seems rather cumbersome; “While undergoing treatment for breast cancer, I lost my mind, gained weight, and grappled with a whole new set of issues” doesn’t quite work, but “While battling breast cancer, I lost my mind, gained weight, and grappled with a whole new set of issues” is a bit more succinct. “During the time in which I was ridding my body of cancer” is pretty clumsy, but “During my fight against cancer” works quite well. I like efficiency, so the battle metaphor works for me.

One thing I don’t like about it, though, is the idea that those who “lost the battle” with cancer didn’t fight hard enough or were somehow at fault. Cancer is totally random, people. It strikes those who take excellent care of themselves as often as it strikes those who are not so careful with their health.  Survival depends on a lot of things, and sadly, sheer force of will is pretty low on the list. If survival were tied to will, my sweet mama would be alive and probably ringing me up on the phone right now to ask me if I’ve mastered the art of pie crust yet and to suggest that I let her little darlins, aka my children, have enormous ice cream sundaes for breakfast. She fought like hell and did every single thing her team of doctors at MD Anderson told her to do, no matter how tired she was or how crappy she felt. She endured more awful stuff than I like to remember. She wanted to live to see her little darlins grow up (and to hassle me about not giving them enough treats/presents/leeway/benefit of the doubt). She fought like hell, and waged a mighty battle, and was a tireless, non-complaining warrior. And yet, she still “lost.”

Cancer, and the battle one’s life becomes when diagnosed, is on my mind today, as it often is, but today even more so than usual. Another friend has been diagnosed, and my heart is so heavy. My thoughts return to her often, and I’ve felt just plain sick ever since I heard the terrible news. Cancer comes after people indiscriminately, and it seems to me it gets the good ones just as often as the mean ones. My newly diagnosed friend is most definitely one of the good ones. She deserves so much better than pancreatic cancer. How someone with such a sweet and gentle nature and such a giving heart can fall victim to such a merciless fate is beyond me. And yet, she begins her epic battle today.

I’m not naive enough to wish for a world free of cancer. But I do wish there was a sliding scale. If you’re going to get it, in all its ominous forms, why can’t the scope of the disease be equal to how nice a person you are? Why is it that “only the good die young,” as Billy Joel sagely points out? It’s just not fair for cancer to wage war on someone who is patient and kind when someone who’s vain and shallow gets a free pass. Or for cancer to creep up on someone who’s worked all his life and is ready to finally enjoy retirement, while someone who’s dishonest and rude escapes unscathed. I just hate that cancer pounds on the door of someone who’s trying to do all the right things, yet skips completely the person whose main concern is keeping up with and besting her neighbors. Where’s the sense in cancer claiming a delightful human being who would give you the shirt off her back, yet ignoring the not-so-delightful human being who is petty and small?

I’d like this system a lot better if there were a sliding scale.

6 Comments on “A sliding scale”

  1. David Benbow says:

    I’ve been thinking about your friend a lot today and hope she is as strong as you have been. My good friend Tom died suddenly of pancreatic cancer just as he was about to retire. He was also one of the good ones, an amazing artist, and everyone was anticipating what he would create in his retirement years. Sadly, it never materialized.

    Cancer sucks.

  2. Eddie says:

    There is no sense in cancer. Some people are blessed with good fortune, intelligence, beauty, and grace. Cancer is the yin to that yang. Some people get shat upon.

  3. lLauren says:

    yeah I don’t know, i grappled with this once, the whole grueling battle thing, I always say when I was sick, which probably does more for me than others, but somehow feels better than, when I had cancer…

    anyway yes, in the sliding scale world, i watch my ex buy now his 7th new car and wonder how it is the world works…but I trust it…


  4. Christy says:

    I’m sick about it….can’t stop thinking about her. Our mamas always told us that life isn’t fair, and damned if it ain’t true 😦

  5. Jan Hasak says:

    That is so hard. I have no explanations, but am happy for compassionate people in my sphere of influence. Kind words make up somewhat for the cruelty of fate.

  6. Cancer plain and simple…. just sucks… PER-I-OD. I am sorry to read about your friend-truly SO SORRY, and a sliding scale would be great. If ONLY. Life isn’t fair and Billy Joel….. being from Long Island, I have a special “love” for music that many people may not appreciate-but he got it right….. only the good…

    I hate that “bad things happen to good people” and it surely can find ways to shatter me to the core.

    Reading about your friend shatters me.


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