Cancer has been a persistent factor in my life since before I was even born. My aunt died of it, my grandma died of it, my closest friend in high school died of it, my grandfather almost died of it, and now I know three people who are en route to dieing of cancer.
Cancer is an axe that’s been hanging over my head and my sisters’ head and my mother’s head since literally forever because, as luck would have it, we all share a mutantly rare genetic possibility of dieing of breast cancer. Me and my sisters each have a 1 in 4 chance, and my mother has a 1 in 2 chance. So, basically, the odds have royally screwed us and the higher likelihood is that breast cancer is going to be claiming one of us for sure at some point.
We’ve each suffered multiple cancer scares in our lifetimes and my mother now has a chronic, deep-seated fear of mammograms, hospitals, and anything that vaguely resembles the word ‘cancer’ (answer, dancer, prancer: very scary words for my mother). Somewhere in the deep, dark corners of our mind a part of us is waiting for that axe to drop because we’ve all seen it happen so many times.
And to those of you who have thankfully never been through such a harrowing experience and so don’t know what I mean by ‘seen it happen,’ here’s the basic gist:
Seeing someone die of cancer does not, by any means, look like a movie or a TV show or even a well-intentioned PSA. Nope. Listening to the breaths of someone you love getting so slow and so heavy that inhaling and exhaling literally begins to physically hurt them is something you can never ever, ever prepare yourself for. Never. Because seeing cancer is seeing the surgery scars, the exhaustion of chemo, and the sky-high (and usually crippling) medical expenses. Seeing cancer is seeing the toll it takes on every single relationship you have and seeing someone live in fear of the fact that there’s a good chance they are going to die very soon.
Living in the ‘Cancer Death Bubble’ is like living in the slowest, most horrible purgatory you could ever possibly imagine and wanting nothing more on this planet but to leave that purgatory. Except for one thing: to never ever leave that purgatory. Because once you leave that purgatory, it’s over. The person is over. Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and mother and father and sister and best friend are all over. And all you have to do now is go home without them.
So, I guess no one ever told cancer that my mother would suffer with self-guilt issues for the rest of her life because her sister and mother died suddenly and prematurely and all while she was about to give birth. I guess no one told cancer that I would’ve really liked to have gotten to know my grandmother and to get some great stories and life lessons and endless love out of her. That my friend was only 17 and had an entire lifetime left to live. That my aunt would never get to know her only son who she had to leave mother-less at one years old. Couldn’t someone have told cancer about any of these things? Cancer, you’re fired.
But, of course, the reality is that none of these things matter at all. Which is why me and my sisters and my mother have to deal with the constant and very real possibility that one of us might have breast cancer at this very minute. And to that I say: screw you, cancer!
Screw you for killing my grandparents and other people’s parents and other people’s children and for probably killing me one day. Screw you for not giving a flying dingbat whether someone is nice or mean or good or evil or boring or ugly or pretty or if someone’s daughter or son are going to suffer for their whole entire life because of you. Screw you for just taking people and time and money away. Screw you for making women like Angelina Jolie resort to these measures just to save her children and herself from you. Screw you for being nothing more than a weird organ failure and mutant cell growth instead of something real that I can be mad at. Screw you for surrounding me and my family and so many other people in the world with this feeling of heavy, sad, deep absence that never really goes away.
So, yeah. Screw you, cancer. And screw you most of all because saying ‘screw you’ doesn’t even help.