Back in 1989, as I walked through the hallway of the 9th floor at St. Luke’s Hospital for the first time as a cancer patient, the first lesson I learned was that cancer does not discriminate. Whereas early in my childhood, and mainly because of stereotypes that cancer created, it seemed that only certain people were diagnosed, and died from cancer.
Within minutes, I would see the widest of ranges in age of patients, from as young as two, to patients in their eighties. I saw men and women, people of all ethnicities. I would be willing to be also, that it did not matter if you were a good person or a bad person. Short and tall, rich and poor. It did not matter.
It was after those first steps on the cancer floor, that I had it in my mind I was going to be my cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But it also became a moment that would change my thought process. After seeing the various patients, and in their various states, from that moment on I no longer gave myself the opportunity to feel sorry for myself, to allow myself to feel or acknoledge any pain or discomfort, physical or emotional. Someone was always going to have it worse than me. My situation was going to be temporary. This was thinking was going to be an issue for the rest of my life, and it is, often in a horrible way.
You see, no matter what the pain or discomfort, it does not take away from the reality, that it is real. Your pain, my discomfort, someone else’s ail, they are all real, and all deserve the proper attention. Yet while for the most part, I appreciate being able to be referred to as a long term cancer survivor. But at the same time, my heart mourns for Jennifer (see Jennifer’s Story on this blog page), and now my heart completely mourns for Michael. My thoughts begin to be dominated by a three year old neighbor battling a cancer that just a few years ago, took my stepsister’s life with her second battle having survived the first time for more than 30 years. I worry about my dad who just turned 70 as he worries about his cancer surviving.
Cancer does not discriminate. And even if it did, I do not know if that would help to make sense as to the “why” it has to happen. All I know is that it hurts. Every time I must say goodbye who has come into my life, it hurts. That is why I participate in fundraisers like the Relay For Life, Light The Night, breast cancer walks. Money cannot be the reason that we continue to lose someone. We need to find the cures, for all cancers, and then prevention.