Monday, February 7, 2011

Cancer Perceptions

From the good folks at LIVESTRONG, a sort of sad video called "Stigma and Silence."

The video features cancer patients and doctors from around the world who talk about the way their cancer is perceived by others. Unfortunately, for too many, it means being isolated, as people don't know how to deal with it, or even think that it might be contagious. And for some, the isolation extends to their families, as the stigma of having cancer almost brings on some kind of shame.

That's just so sad.

And it's why I don't hide that I have cancer. I don't want things to be the way they were 100 years ago -- even 50 years ago -- when "Cancer" was a word that wasn't spoken, or only spoken in whispers. It isn't something people want to deal with, and I understand that. But a cancer diagnosis isn't the automatic death sentence that it used to be. And hearing that someone has cancer doesn't mean that it's best to just let them be alone to die a quiet death, alone.

I was thinking the other day about the few days after I was diagnosed. My parents had come to be with us, to help us keep an eye on the kids and see how they were handling it all. Mom and Dad were downstairs playing with the kids in the basement. I was upstairs in the kitchen, and dinner was just about ready. Instead of interrupting the time they were spending together, I just set the table on my own and served dinner, and then I called everyone up. My mom came up, the stairs and asked "Do you need help setting the table?" I told her, "No. It's all done."

Then I whispered to her, "Nice. Make the guy with f---ing cancer do all the work." She laughed, which is what I had hoped for.

I won't stop making jokes about having cancer, because I refuse to give cancer that kind of respect. I hope some day the rest of the world feels the same way.

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