I hate cancer, like most of the population. I do not know of a single person who will say that cancer is a wonderful disease. However horrendous the disease is, though, I have learned many things about it. Probably one of the best facts I have picked up is that it has a talent for creating warriors.
You never know how you are going to act or react when you are told that you or someone you know has cancer. We have all played the ‘if I’ game; this is a game where we look at certain situations and say, “If I was told x, I’d do y.” This could be about any number of topics, ranging from what your hero does in a movie to how you would deal with tragic news. Cancer is no exception, and while we would all like to think we would hold our heads up proudly and kick the disease into submission, the simple fact is it is heavy news. It does not matter whether you receive the news that you have cancer or that a dear friend does; the whole notion of how you would deal with the news in the ‘if I’ game flies out the window in the face of stone cold reality.
I watched my mother tackle the disease head on. I remember March 21, 1998 very well; that was the day she had received the results of her biopsy and it was not happy news. I am certain Mom had her moments where she looked at her life and wondered how many days she had left, just as I am deadly sure that there were a number of tears shed when no one was looking. It was during her fight with the disease, though, I watched her turn into a real warrior. Whether it was when she met me in her living room – the same living room where I had watched her nearly pull her hair out in frustration at something my sister or I did during our teenage years – with her new, smoothly shaven head, or when she looked up at me from her hospital bed, still stoned on morphine after her mastectomy as she told me it was all right to be afraid, she had more guts in facing the disease than I ever thought possible.
I have been spending a lot of time thinking about those warrior moments she showed me. I am seeing them a lot from a friend who is blogging her experience with women’s cancers. She is learning to embrace a warrior’s spirit, too, just from her simple bravery in talking so openly about her experience. Whether it is about issues of vanity when it comes to her hair loss and decision to shave her head right down to the shortest length possible or her first chemotherapy experience, she has lifted her head and looked the disease square in the face as she has effectively stuck her tongue out at it. Her warrior’s spirit is growing larger and she has, along with my mother, shown me how to look at crisis in my own life with the same fire.
Cancer sucks, for sure, but it is up to each of us to decide how we deal with it when faced with the disease. The ostrich approach – burying our head in the sand – is never an option, as that only allows the disease to have far more control over our lives than we want or deserve. October is Women’s Cancers Month, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and it’s critical that everyone whose lives have been touched by cancer should look at their experience with the disease with the same warrior’s spirit.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean