There are Two Ways to Survive Cancer

There are Two Ways to Survive Cancer April 28, 2016

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Aaaarrrggghhh!
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Aaaarrrggghhh!

I’m back. Sort of.

As I explain in this post I wrote for the National Catholic Register, I feel like a shipwreck victim who has washed up on a strange shore. I’ve been so completely immersed in that nether world of cancer treatment and fighting for my life that this normal world seems odd to me.

The values of this world are backwards to me now, more so than they already were backward to me as a practicing Christian. The physical part of cancer is all bad. Every single bit of it. It has left me dealing with a set of deficits and diminishments that will last as long as I do.

But thanks to the love of God, the spiritual side of cancer has been a remarkable gift. The Holy Spirit walked with me throughout, and I have come closer to Him than I thought possible in this life.

Here is a bit of what I wrote for the Register.

I told a friend that I feel as if I’ve been away. I feel like someone who has wintered over at the South Pole and is now peeking from behind doors at the newcomers who’ve arrived with the sun.

In truth, I have been to a different continent, but it is a continent of the mind and spirit, of enclosure and obsessive focus. The topography has nothing to do with the unexplored mountain ranges and rivers that I associate with the idea of a new continent. The unexplored areas of this new land were hospital rooms and surgical suites, doctor’s offices and pathology results.

I been fighting for my life, just as surely as any gladiator in an arena, any soldier in battle. I have been, like they are, on strange soil, someone else’s territory, guarding my back as well as my front as I sought purchase on the shaky ground under my feet, as I fought to find the way out of the nightmare.

Cancer is a fight to the death with killer cells that are, in fact, part of ourselves. Nothing will kill cancer that will not also kill us. Because cancer is us. It is our own cells from our own body, gone rogue. Something happened. Either our defenses weakened, or the cell was overwhelmed with a toxicity that almost, but didn’t quite, kill it, and it changed. The change turned it into a terrifying chimera of its old self, a frightening example of what happens to life when the breaks are taken off and one cell — one solitary cell — can multiply and migrate without limit.

Cancer is the ultimate predator. It is the ultimate parasite, taking up ever larger portions of the nutrients and space our bodies need to keep us alive. Cancer is also the ultimate suicidal maniac, that always ends up killing its host, which is to say, itself. Cancer is suicide by greed at the cellular level.

I suppose that makes it a rather elegant metaphor for the politics of greed which threaten to destroy our great nation. But that is a topic for another post.

Today I want to discuss the stunned, waking-up-from-sleep aftermath of cancer treatment.

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9 responses to “There are Two Ways to Survive Cancer”

  1. That you can be generous enough in your journey to share this with total strangers floors me. My continuing prayers for you and my grateful thanks for your insights.

  2. I’ve been praying for you and looking out for news the last few months. So pleased to hear you are in recovery – I know it’s still a long road ahead. Will continue to pray.

  3. Shipwrecked is a great way to describe it. I remember seeing one of my of my kids wearing clothes I had never seen before. My husband had taken him shopping for a school assembly. I couldn’t believe I missed that there was an assembly and that my husband went shopping for it.

    Cancer treatment exhaustion is intense. It does get better with time.

    I am not a perky, wrapped in pink ribbons survivor either. Greed around cancer – I can’t write about what I think and still follow your civility commenting rules.

    Glad to see you are writing again. I’ve been praying for you and your family.