Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cancer Sucks

When I was growing up, I didn't know much about cancer.  I knew my parents would get upset or sad when someone they knew was diagnosed with cancer, and I had a vague idea that there was something called Chemo that made these people lose their hair.

Later I learned that it was serious, mostly because it's more fatal than just about any other disease.  Sure there are viruses that have a higher mortality rate, but these viruses are so protected against that they're only seen in rare outbreaks, mostly in third-world countries.  Cancer is the one we have to worry about.

It wasn't til 2009 that I really started to learn about it.  In June of that year, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  I think the initial shock was because of the mortality rates with cancer.  My reaction softened over the next few months as I learned about the comparably lower mortality rates associated with prostate cancer, at least when compared against leukemia, lung cancer, colon cancer, etc..  I was even relieved when his doctor prescribed a hormone regiment.  No radiation, no chemo, no surgery.  I decided that if this was mild enough to be treated with hormone therapy alone, I didn't have much to worry about.

But this is where cancer really starts to suck.  As much as I've learned about different types of cancer treatment, there's only one diagnosis that can be treated for a lifetime with a single drug: Hodgekins Lymphoma.  With the miracle drug, Gleevec, these patients can keep their disease in check with nothing more than a daily pill.  Every other diagnosis is met with a treatment plan that changes a couple times a year.  And do you know why they keep changing the treatment plan?  Because the last one stopped working.

That's not the end of it, either.  When the new treatment is planned, the doctor has to help the patient decide how much quality of life they should sacrifice for the next attempt.  Hormone therapies have minimal side effects, radiation mostly causes scheduling chaos, chemo turns your life upside down half way between each treatment, and the most radical treatments include surgeries with lifelong consequences.  Worst of all, for leukemia patients, the doctor has to consider whether a 75% survival rate is good enough to attempt a bone marrow transplant.

Through all of this, the patient along with their friends and family have to hope.  Hope that the next treatment isn't too hard.  Hope that the next miracle drug works as well as the doctor says it will.  Hope that it doesn't end too soon.

As much as cancer sucks, there's so much it can't do.  So many parts of me it can't touch.  Some of my favorite words about this came from the back of a t-shirt, and unfortunately I can't identify the author.  The truth is:
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendships
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit.
Next time you think of your loved ones who are going through this battle, don't give the disease too much credit.  Remember who you are, and who they are.  And know that you are bigger than this disease.

Always moving forward,


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