Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cancer Sucks, Thoughts From My Friend Connie

I've written before about my friend Constance Emerson Crooker's memoir, Melanoma Mama: On Life, Death, and Tent Camping, the "death" part being her ongoing tussles with Stage 4 melanoma. Stage 4 any-kind-of-cancer is majorly bad news, but melanoma is particularly nasty. Connie has, in her own words, won the lottery when it comes to treatments, but her future hasn't always been rosy and for all I know, is not now and never will be. During a nasty reversal, she wrote words that amaze me with their honesty:

When I imply my days might be numbered, people sometimes say, "None of us know how long we'll live." As if we're all in the same boat. As if I'm supposed to agree that it doesn't matter to me that I've been diagnosed with an incurable, life-threatening disease, because, after all, life is sure to end for all of us. Sorry, but I can't be so sanguine about it. I'm not saying this to garner the sympathy vote, but having Stave IV melanoma is not the same as knowing, generally, that all living things must die. It just isn't. Knowing that I can theoretically get crunched by a speeding train or knocked on the bean by a meteorite is not the same as the day-to-day realization that there's an enemy lurking in me that loves to suck my blood and grow out of control in all kinds of inconvenient places. I don't like it. I hate it.

It's not about not having lived yet. If there's some pleasure, licit or illicit that I've missed out on in life, I honestly can't think of it. I'm a fiend for sucking up life, rare and juicy.

It's not about not having contributed enough good yet. Of course I could do more, but I'm proud of my accomplishments.

Here's what it's about. Being sick just plain sucks. It's like being trapped on a nausea-producing carnival ride that won't stop to let you off. It's about feeling helpless in a cruel, cold universe that wantonly wipes out whole species, and doesn't give a flying fuck about one struggling human.

I'm reminded that the most loving and most powerful thing we can do for someone we care about who is living with cancer is not to cheer them up. It's to listen.

I highly recommend Connie's book, especially if someone you love has a serious disease like cancer. I wouldn't go so far as to give copies to everysingle friend and family member I know, but if her words have spoken to you, do check it out.

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