Sunday, November 1, 2009

I am not a cancer warrior

So I'm a card-carrying member of the Cancer Club.

I'd say that half the time (maybe more?), it's not anywhere in my consciousness.

The other roughly half of the time is split between many things:

• There is a good amount of time that what I'm doing is because of the cancer, though most of the time by now, the action/reaction is pretty habitual and "cancer" isn't in the front of my mind (i.e. sunscreen, avoiding plastics, avoiding synthetics and pesticides in foods).

• I have periodic conversations with people about health-related things — whether it's my experience with cancer, theirs, their experience in something else equally as crappy.

• I continue to have run-ins with physiological chemo leftovers (chemo brain, chemo boobs, heart rate issues).

• There are cancer blogs that I follow and cancer-related organizations that send me e-mails and show up in my Facebook news feed.

• I get an e-mail every so often from the oncology counselor at the hospital, letting me know about an event at the hospital.

• I learn about someone else getting cancer, which always instantly puts me back sitting on the hospital bed in the ER on that fateful day.

• I very rarely get an e-mail from someone who stumbled across my blog and writes to me looking for advice. I always answer those.

• And every once in a great while, I think, "Yeah, I had cancer ... Holy crap! I had cancer!" It is somehow still kind of surreal.

I have friends who I've met through cancer treatments and cancer-related events. There are many people who have started organizations, websites, etc. in their survivorship. They are very active in the cancer community (most often in the young adult cancer community). They (seem to) feel a deep connection with others with this disease and an angry passion about eradicating it.

Every now and then, I feel like I should be like them. Or like I should want to be like them.

But I don't.

I certainly believe that cancer is an awful thing, though there are many other conditions that are much higher on my "don't want it" list. I believe, more or less, that people don't deserve it, and that the current treatments for it are barbaric and awful — in too many cases, worse than the disease itself. I would love for there to be no more cancer, but I also believe that regardless of how much money we raise for research and awareness, we will always have cancer because we love our carcinogens too much.

It surprises me how many people go through cancer hell and don't change what they put into their bodies. (Not judging, just surprised.)

I have been told that Hodgkin's is not a lifestyle-related cancer. That means that it happened regardless of whether or not I was making healthy choices. It means that the plastics I am avoiding, the grilled meat I am avoiding, the cigarettes I am avoiding, the belly fat I am keeping off, the sun I block most of the time, have/had no influence on my cancer. But those things can help to cause other cancers, and I don't want those, either, so I have made choices. They're not always easy choices (have I mentioned how much I hate sunscreen?), but in my opinion, they're worth it. Suncreen is better than chemo. Life is still worth it, even without meat, without convenient drinks, without artificial sweeteners.

I'm rambling. I'm not really sure where I'm going. I guess I feel like there's a lot of ducking personal responsibility in this whole cancer thing. It's easier to yell at other people to fix the problem than to see how we are contributing to it ourselves. If we refused to purchase/consume items that were carcinogenic, companies would need to find another way to produce/package. Of course, that includes damn near everything, it seems, including carpet, particleboard, stain-master-type fabrics, most plastics, canned food/drinks (they line the insides with plastic), the list goes on and on. But I think food and drink would be the best place to start, followed by cleaning agents (soap, shampoo, detergents — we absorb a lot of the crap we put on our bodies).

So I suppose my efforts to gently influence people to change their habits, or even one habit could be considered cancer advocacy.

Of course, we've known for a while that smoking causes cancer, and there are still plenty of smokers. I don't suspect most people are even going to give a second thought to lesser evils. But it does frustrate me that they hand out water in plastic bottles at the Race for the Cure.

99% of the time, I have no negative feelings about not being a cancer warrior, so this is really not a quality-of-life issue. It just pops up every now and then.

It's not really even "popped" right now — I just felt like blogging and this issue was on my list of things to blog about. I'm sure I put it on the list the last time something triggered it. I wonder if that post would have been more interesting. Or more off-putting. Hm.

1 comment:

Tam said...

I share so many of your sentiments about personal responsibility after cancer to avoid other cancers... and wishing my ordeal was more of an example to others take better care of themselves to avoid cancer. (and overall any other health problems)