Back in August, a Canadian politician died of cancer. The Globe and Mail published this article, which basically says that Mr. Layton “didn’t lose a fight; he died of cancer” and claiming that it’s time for cancer patients to stop fighting cancer and to learn to live with it. It’s an argument for changing the language surrounding one’s interaction with cancer.
Bullshit. I, and every one of my sisters-in-breast-cancer in my support group, view ourselves as warriors. We talk to each other in the language of fighting, we support each other during meltdowns and setbacks, we talk about the battle and about kicking cancer’s ass and the power of healing and light and love in our fight. We celebrate every victory and piece of good news. And make no mistake – we are fighting this disease tooth and nail.
Attitude is important when you have cancer. I can’t imagine going through what I’ve been through with the attitude of it’s something I’m living with. Excuse me? Surgical amputation of a body part? Flooding my body with chemicals that are so toxic that I have to make sure that I drink extra fluids because my urine becomes so toxic that if I don’t clear it out my bladder could be damaged? Drugs that destroy my skin and my hair and my stomach lining in their efforts to also destroy any secretly lurking cancer cells? This is a battle, and I am sure as hell fighting it.
I’ve had to dig deep for strength. I can’t always keep positive when I’m feeling crappy, or when I think too much about survival rates for triple negative cancer, or when yet another nail bites the dust. But I never feel like I can’t show that the fight is wearisome, or that there isn’t someone there to boost me up and inject me with more will. My support group is wonderful. My family and friends are wonderful. My oncologist is great. I have a shining beacon in an aunt who has been waging a long battle with cancer and who has met each challenge with piss and vinegar and a determination that nothing like this is going to get the best of her.
Years ago I studied this poem by Maltbie Babcock in a college class. I think that in that 70’s classroom it was an example of mediocrity. But its message has always stayed with me, and has been especially applicable now.
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.
Shun not the struggle; face it. ‘Tis God’s gift.
Say not the days are evil, – Who’s to blame?
And fold not the hands and acquiesce, – O shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.
It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day, how long.
Faint not, fight on! To-morrow comes the song.