Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fuck Cancer.

I don't know how to start this post.  I've been wanting to write it for a while now, and have written many irreverent, witty versions of it in my head that come across as meaningful but not whiney.

Unfortunately, I can't ever seem to figure out how to translate those from my mind through my keys and into cyberspace, so I'm just gonna start and go with it, and see what happens.

My life has been touched by this thing, this rising trend, in many ways, and I have to say, I dislike it.  Enormously.  And it is not something that is even remotely within my control, and so I sit and stew and try to figure out how to come to terms with this evil thing that wields such unfair power.  And then I move on, and try to make the most of what I've got, because getting bogged down by the awfulness of it all would just be contributing to its victory.

I'm referring, of course, to Cancer.  Niggling little bitch gets into places it doesn't belong and shoves everything that lives there out of its way to make room for itself - talk about elitist, this disease takes the cake!  Taking gentrification, resource guzzling, and self-importance to the extreme!

This whole thing is just to send a big FUCK YOU out to cancer in general.  There is no deep inner thoughts, no poetic meaning, I just want to rant and wag my middle fingers at this smarmy-ass disease.
I'm tired of feeling haunted by it, and just kinda wanna call the damn thing out.

Why now?  Well, the overwhelming reality of it is hitting me pretty hard this week because it showed up really unexpectedly.  AGAIN.

For me, pregnancy comes with cancer.  It started in 2006 when, two months after a clean mammogram, my mom noticed a lump in her breast.  Since she'd just had the clean screening, she didn't think much of it and took about 3 weeks to get around to calling the doctor.  Then it took the doctor about 3 weeks to bring her in to check it out.  By the time they realized it was bad and the biopsy confirmed the result, it was mid-September and the cancer was one stage shy of fatal.  Then, a few days before her mastectomy, my beloved cat and faithful best friend from kindergarten on, Ragamuffin, was diagnosed with cancer as well.  These were the circumstances under which we began Cadence's pregnancy.

Mom, thankfully, was able to fight her way through a pretty grueling year, and beat it.  Ragamuffin, sadly, was not.

Fast forward a couple of years:  We receive word sometime in the early summer that my Grandpa Ed had a bad cough, which they thought was pneumonia...but it was soon discovered that it was, in fact, a rapidly aggressive form of lung cancer linked to his exposure to Agent Orange during his time as a medic in the Vietnam War.  Thus began my pregnancy with Hazel, who unfortunately did not get to meet him.  I was still in my first trimester when he passed away that September.  (Also around this time, my cousin Aaron's father lost his own battle with cancer.  It was a rough time for that side of the family.)

Fast forward another couple of years, when I suddenly find myself pregnant for a third time, rather unexpectedly.  Evidently the first two experiences had a bit of a traumatic influence on me, because this time I was waiting for it. "Uh oh," I thought, "who's gonna get cancer this time?"

So I can't say I was surprised when my mom called to report that she was going in for a bone scan.  It seemed inevitable!  I felt so guilty...and stupid for feeling guilty, too.  So I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the scan was negative.  "See!" I tried to tell myself, "Just coincidence!  No connection at all."

That only lasted until the doctor (thankfully) decided to send her in for a PET scan, just in case.  Sure enough, there was a big ole inoperable tumor wrapped around her sternum, (which we later found out it had pathologically broken) and the cancer had once more reared its head.

It wasn't too long after that when my cousin Jessie, who had just had her own first child, lost her half-brother to the disease.

We headed down to KY to spend the summer with my mom while she underwent some pretty nasty chemo treatments.  While we were there, my friend Liz - who is my age and not in a high-risk category - reported that she had been diagnosed with skin cancer!  Insane!

So this brings us (in this super-summarized version,) to current events.  I'm sitting here now, 38 weeks pregnant and ready to welcome our new little life into this world, watching somewhat helplessly as various iterations of cancer pull at strings around me.  Jessie, the loss of her brother still fresh, just lost her dad to the same disease a few days ago. (this has been a rough time for that side of the family.)   Mom got word that the chemo has stopped working, and her best bet now is a dangerous surgery that will involve a team of surgeons to remove most of her breastbone and bits of her ribs, and then rebuilding them with artificial replacements and grafting muscles around them to reconstruct the area...its great because it's possible, and will give her the best chance at a full recovery.  It's awful because it's a scary, major surgery that will require a months-long and seriously unpleasant recovery.

And last week, our sweet little kitty Puy cat suddenly (literally overnight) developed a (huge) lump on her back leg, and after a trip to the ER and a biopsy, we've learned that it is an exceptionally tenacious, localized form of cancer.  Evidently it doesn't spread very quickly, but it's almost impossible to excavate from its chosen spot, which is why tomorrow, I have to take her in to have her leg amputated (and pray that I don't go into labor before we can pick her up, and bring her home to adjust to life as a [cancer free, but] three legged kitty).

And all of this is just since I got into the game of bringing new life into this world.  It doesn't mention my friends' parents who struggled with it during our childhoods.  Or my friend Rob, who lost his battle with it back in high school.  Or my friend Jonathan, who was one of the most advanced students at my martial arts school when he suddenly had to seriously scale back his studies to begin treatment. Or Jacob, my friend Kate's remarkable son, who suffered through and beat a particularly nasty form of brain cancer when he was only two!  Or my high school teacher who would often show up with fresh bandages from where he'd had to have yet another tumor removed in his fight against skin cancer.  Or my mom's friend who's stomach cancer took her away from her new husband shortly after their wedding.  Or my own grandfather, who lived to be 91 years old, but was finally doomed by colon cancer.

And it also doesn't include all of the amazing stories - wonderful and horrible - that I have heard from friends and members of our various communities who have come out of the woodwork to offer support, especially since I took the highly visible step of shaving my head to make a wig for mom.  There was one woman in particular who approached me after that and shared her own story, and I feel I've gained a friend from it...but then last week she reported that she had lost a close, young relative to the disease somewhat unexpectedly, and it drives home just how unfamiliar and unpredictable it can be all over again.

So seriously, Screw You, Cancer.  Passive aggressive bastard.  Stop harassing my loved ones at every turn.

Mom wearing my hair.
I wish I had the knowledge and skill to aid in the research to make it all go away.