Canned Sentiment is Useless
There’s this thing with cancer awareness months that sets me off into unreasonable head-space land.
“Don’t Give Up… Never Give Up.”
In a perfunctory search, and some talk with my sweetheart, this phrase is related to Jimmy Valvano’s speech, and his foundation, and the search to cure cancer. That’s a good thing to try not to give up on. Search for a cure.
Somehow, it gets used as a rallying cry to patients.
This infuriates me. Sometimes, there is no more. Sometimes, you are literally causing yourself extreme physical anguish with treatments that are barely prolonging your life at a dreadful cost. Sometimes, those treatments don’t even do that, and all you are doing is allowing your test results to aid in statistics for drug companies to further research. Which is not bad, if you have the mental and emotional strength to put yourself through that physical pain and horror.
Some people don’t, or do for a time, but eventually realize that it’s affecting their ability to enjoy the last moments of their life with loved ones. Sometimes, the hardest and best thing to do is to say “no” and to look your oncologist in the eye and say, “It’s time.”
And if you have a good oncologist, one who is not just obsessed with eradicating the disease, but also with helping the humans in his or her care, the doctor will say, “Ok.” The doctor and his team will switch you over to the palliative care team. You will enter hospice care. It may happen at home; it may happen at a hospice house; or it may be a blend of those things.
Making that decision is not giving up. It is not a failure to fight the hardest fight of your life. It is the next step. Because it’s not easy to say goodbye. It’s not easy to stop. It’s not easy to say, “I am going to become a part of nothingness and my body will return to the earth,” if you are an atheist (or other believer in things that do not involve afterlife). It’s not easy to say, “I’m at peace with my decisions, and I believe that whatever the afterlife holds, I will be ready for that adventure now.” Because you are leaving people behind, and they will suffer your absence. And you will be intimately aware of that. And even once you reach the moments where you aren’t quite as aware of that, there will still be moments of seeming lucidity where you see people you thought predeceased you with those who are keeping watch over you. And in the event you choose to be mostly alone, you will still be with your own thoughts and memories.
It is a lot. It is still a battle. It’s not an easy, thoughtless choice; choosing to end your battle with cancer by living your life.
These canned statements for awareness make me so desperately angry, to the point of violence. Fuck cancer. Fuck what it does and is. But do not equate stopping treatment with giving up.