Cancer and war speech seem to go hand in hand. "Soldier on, be a warrior, kill those cancer cells." It’s natural to speak in terms that reflect some big fight with lymphoma, a war with my body, or battling this tumor. It’s common cancer-lingo, but it’s not language that I relate to.
It’s not unnatural that my body rapidly multiplied cancerous cells, created a tumor and took up residency in a couple of my lymph nodes. That process is one hundred percent natural. Sure - the cancer is life threatening, no doubt about it. Life threatening is fearful to humans. I get it, I'm human and I am not immune to fear. It’s often our human way to fight what we fear. But the end of life is not unnatural at all, and I don’t presume to be an exemption from one of the most natural things that happens on this planet.
Every species from plants to animals to humans is full of variations and disease, constantly interacting with the randomness of life. This means that a percentage of people, or flowers, or puppies will simply not make it to the highest range of their potential life span. No human is owed a long life - the very thought reeks of delusion and entitlement. What is – in fact - unnatural, is the idea that we humans should be able to change the natural course of things, and through radical human intervention – stop that process. Rituxan, chemotherapy, radiation, immunology, power-ports, and treatment for blood clots? These are all highly sophisticated machinations of the brilliant human mind that says, “Let’s figure this out. Let’s manipulate nature for our own benefit! Let’s work with nature to create more quality and quantity of life.” What genius. What divine intervention.
Science has become very intimate and personal to me. It means having options to work in concert with my body to teach it new tricks. B-cells, you belong here and not there! Tumor, kindly melt away from the heart please. Immune system, let’s make some more white blood cells to support this whole process. On the other hand, cancer has become very impersonal to me. It didn’t choose me, and it’s not picking on me unfairly. It’s just plugging along and doing its cell multiplication job. That’s what cancer does.
Listen. Treatment is either going to work, or it isn’t. I don’t know what the destination is, and I don’t get to choose it. I’m just here to take the ride with all I've got to give. My body will adapt and try to survive the best that it is able to, as it always has. It will not win or lose. There’s a good chance that I’ll end up in full remission at the end of all of this. There’s a small chance that I won’t survive. I’m immensely privileged that I even get to take this treatment ride, and I’m okay with either destination. I really am. Cancer and my outcome are not personal, even in their life-and-death, profound way.
But this isn’t a war. It’s an experience. I don’t need a fight song or a holster of symbolic weaponry to ride it. Cancer is not my war cry. It doesn’t jive with me to imagine chemo drugs moving through my body fighting off cancer cells. My tumor is not a terrifying boogey-man that needs to be blasted away. The cancer is part of ME. It’s not an outside force, personally attacking my life and breath and all that I hold dear. It’s not separate from me. It’s completely the opposite. This is a natural act of the universe, moving through me on the most intimate, cellular level. These are my cells, which my up-to-recently healthy body has created. To disassociate from that would remove me from nature and from reality. It would take this complex situation and over-simplify it into good and bad. My sophisticated body has always done its best for me and it deserves more respect than that.
I’m not fighting my self, my body, or even cancer. I’m trying to intercept a natural process and redirect how the cells of my body work to create a new natural process that will allow me to live a longer life. I’m working WITH my body, IN my body and trying not to disconnect from the very real things that are happening in my own form. Unfairness is not an illusion I will engage in, and violence is not new language that I’m suddenly going to speak.
Do I want nature to move through my body in the form of cancer? No, but I am fascinated by the whole damn process. Does it often feel random and sad and scary? Yeah. Sometimes, it does. Am I enjoying the painful process of treatment with its surgeries and needles and chemicals and the spectacular show of science re-schooling my B-cells? Not so much. Do I want to survive to see my children graduate high school, grow up and take on the world? Absolutely. Oh, ab-so-FUCKING-lutely! Will I show up every day and stay connected to my body, be present with this experience and direct one hundred percent of my energy towards healing and treatment? Hell to the yes. But I won’t declare war on myself or on nature. That would be a war against reality, and that would be insanity. Cancer can find itself a different enemy. I am disarmed.