Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cancer and Other Struggles

A recent Blog comment has gotten me thinking about pain that people live with everyday. “Anonymous” commented on my October 8 Blog that she learned her husband has been unfaithful to her. I know infidelity is a common thing – movies and TV shows treat it like it’s normal and accepted in our society. But when it happens to you, I think it can break down your ability to have faith in anything, including yourself.

I’ve written in an earlier Blog about things worse than cancer – living in a war zone with the threat of bombs and sniper fire around you everyday, not being able to provide food and shelter for your family, being homeless and jobless with no hope of making life better for you or your children.

I know cancer survivors who were abandoned by their spouses or girl/boyfriends after they were diagnosed. I have a girlfriend who is going through cancer treatment AND a messy divorce at the same time. Her husband’s argument for getting custody of the kids? She’s going to die of her cancer soon. I have a friend who thought she might lose her newly adopted baby because she was diagnosed with cancer. Why would an adoption agency give the baby to a woman who’s going to die?

I have a friend who, in the space of a year, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, lost her two-year-old to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), saw her husband through an accident that nearly killed him, AND had a teenaged daughter whose boyfriend tried to rape her. How do people survive such blows and get on with life? And this woman is one of the most positive, cheerful people I know.

I’m awed by the strength it takes for people to live through heartaches like these. Sure, we’re not threatened by bombs and guns. We don’t have to turn to prostitution to buy food for our kids. We don’t watch our children go to bed hungry every night. These are the REAL problems people have in faraway places or on the evening news.

But in some ways, struggles with basic survival might be easier than struggling with matters of the heart. Trying to find food for your kids is a concrete, tangible, and universally acknowledged problem. Struggling with an unhappy relationship can be a lonely, scary tunnel of despair.

I’ve asked myself if I’d trade in my cancer for a life without Tony and the kids. Would I prefer to have cancer with them or be cancer-free without them? No question: I choose cancer.

“Anonymous” is right. I have a lot. I’ve always considered myself luckier than most and I still do, even with cancer. Cancer is not necessarily a greater struggle than some of the other struggles that my friends are going through. In a way, I’m luckier than my friends. When you live with cancer day to day, people praise you for being brave. When you’re complaining about divorce or a cheating husband, people aren’t that impressed. Well, I’m impressed with my friends’ strength and wisdom in coping with their problems. Sometimes, I think I have it easy.

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