Friday, October 27, 2006

My Cancer, Your Cancer

I spent the last two days accompanying a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient to the hospital for bone, liver and lung scans to see if her cancer had spread. When the bone scan radiographer was talking to her before the scan, she referred to “C-A” instead of cancer. I wanted to jump in and say, “You mean CANCER, right?” I want to take the stigma out of this word that makes some people look at you as if you’re a goner.

But later on, my friend the patient told me she appreciated that the radiographer didn’t say the word “cancer” to her. She’s afraid of the word. I, on the other hand, want to say the word to everybody and anybody. At restaurants: “Can you make sure there’s no cheese on that? I’m avoiding dairy products because I have CANCER.” At the supermarket: “Can you show me where I can find organic foods? I’m trying to avoid chemicals because I have CANCER.” At any public place: “May I offer you this pamphlet on how to do a breast self-exam? You see, I have breast CANCER and I hope to help save other people.” CANCER, CANCER, CANCER. I figure the more we hear it and the more people we know who are up and about with cancer, the less frightening the word will be.

People don’t drop their voices to a low whisper to say someone has *diabetes* (shhhhh...). So why should cancer be so scary? Granted, in the old days, people got cancer and pretty much died within months. But it’s different now, especially with breast cancer. People live for decades with cancer.

But what I learned from my friend is, not every cancer patient is like me. I have to respect that some people with cancer can’t face hearing it said out loud. Each patient has a different attitude toward her cancer because we are, after all, individuals with different tastes and views toward everything.

So my cancer is a normal everyday thing that anybody can talk about, even joke about. My friend’s cancer needs to be treated with a bit more respect, awe, and fear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the reason that doctors say CA instead of cancer is actually quite simple.

it is easier to say "CA ____ (organ)" than "cancer of the _____ (organ)"