Saturday, January 12, 2013

Stop Fighting

This is a bit of something different here.  It is important to me.  It's been running around in my mind for a long time, years probably.  And I think it is ready to come out.
Those of you who know me, or follow me here, know that I am a two time cancer survivor.  1984 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and in 1995 it was skin cancer.  I survived them both with a lot of work, fear, love, support, tears, chemo, surgeries, radiation therapy.  People would tell me "keep a positive attitude"...I would thank them and then shake my didn't make sense to me.  But that was the "thing" to say to someone who was diagnosed with a possibly malignant disease.  
The "thing"  that I hear now, is in the realm of "keep fighting!"  "fight that disease!"  "you are such a fighter!"  And it makes me sad to hear that.  I want to change the dialogue.  I know it is all about good intentions.  Having a "fighting" spirit brings to mind a real warrior!  But the problem with having a "fight" is that in the end there is a loser and a winner.  Very sad when I read an obituary of someone who has died and it includes things like "lost their fight"..."fought the good fight"...."was a fighter to the end"....because what you are saying is that they lost.  They were a loser.  Cancer won.  
I believe with my whole heart and soul, that the only way cancer can WIN, is if I choose to fight with it. 
Instead, I try very hard to encourage people to KEEP LIVING.  Don't waste your years, months, weeks, days, hours in a fight with cancer.  Use your energy living the very best life that you can.  If you are in treatment, the drugs or the treatment of choice, that is the stuff that is fighting.  Let it do it's job.  But you have to keep living.  Choosing treatment does not mean you chose to fight.  It means you are choosing to live through the treatment.  
Picture someone in a fight.  They are beat up, bloody, sweaty, exhausted, worried about the next punch.  Spending precious moments planning their next move.  Always worried about what the counter punch will be and when it will come, and where it will come from.  Having to wear those boxing gloves, with a helmet on, mouth guard.  Spitting blood into a bucket.  Yes, you are surrounded by cheering fans.  Fight Harder they cheer.  Your coach and trainer there, wiping  your brow, mending your cuts.  But in the end of a fight, there is a winner and a loser.
My mother in law Mary was an amazing woman.  When she was diagnosed with lung cancer she was devastated.  Her little sister Gloria had just died of breast cancer.  Gloria made the decision to not share her health news with her big sister Mary, who lived across the country.  It would just worry her, and she couldn't do anything anyway, so she kept silent about it.  Until she was hospitalized.  At that point it was too late for Mary to travel to see her and say goodbye.  But that was Gloria's choice to make.  So when Mary got the news that the cancer she had was fairly advanced, she made the decision to stay home and live each day as best she could.  She did well for several months and when her body began to shut down, she accepted the assistance of Hospice and remained in her home, where she died very peacefully in her own bed.  Yes it was hard.  Yes we all cried and we still miss her.  And I admire so much her ability to make her own decision about HOW she was going to LIVE, up until the moment she died.
I watched a dear, dear elderly man be given a cancer diagnosis.  He was in relatively good health up until that moment.  He loved to travel, spend time with his family.  Loved sharing time with friends and his wonderful, beautiful wife.  He had lived a long life.  And when he was given this diagnosis, he was encouraged by a physician to "fight"....that though he was in his 80's, he was strong.  And so he spent the last year of his life, fighting.   When he could have been living instead.  His wife did say later that she wished that instead of all that treatment, which was so hard and exhausting and time consuming, that they had instead planned a trip.  Gone to a few of their favorite places while he still was feeling good.  Because in the end, we are all going to die, whether we were fighting or not.  Why not chose living instead?
It's not "giving up".  If someone chooses to NOT pursue treatment options, they are not "giving up the fight" in my opinion.  They are choosing to live their lives in spite of the cancer. .  
We are all going to die.  There is no getting out of it.  
I remember a story I heard from a man at a cancer support group that I attended nearly 30 years ago.  He was a cancer patient himself.  And his wife had died of cancer just a few years prior.  He said that she FOUGHT UP UNTIL HER LAST BREATH!  That she was angry, exhausted, in constant pain and struggled for every breath.  And that it was a horrible thing to witness.  He had young children still to raise, and he was getting treatment.  But he said he was not going to go out fighting.  He was going to live everyday, as best he could and be thankful for it.  He wasn't "giving up".  He was living his life the best he could with the cards he was dealt.  
I worked with a woman at St Joes who I will never forget and always admire.  She was my age.  And the picture of health!  Long, long hair, down to her butt. She had a wicked sense of humor and glint of daring in her eye.  She was a runner.  She ate well.  She loved to be on a motorcycle with her Guy.  Loved spending time with her daughter and grand daughter. Loved to travel to tropical places.   She was diagnosed with a form of stomach cancer.  She did some research.  Had some treatment.  Retired from work to spend more time with her family.  Baked cookies with her grand daughter.  Rode on the back of the motorcycle.  Went to lunch with friends.  And though she was indeed sad about this card she was dealt, she kept on living.  She was gracious and serene and peaceful, and that is how she died.  
So my heartfelt urging is to please, please....when someone you love has their life turned upside down with the diagnosis of cancer dealt to them, love them.  Hug them, cry with them, BE with them.  Encourage them to KEEP LIVING.  Every day they have.  

1 comment:

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Wow - when I read the beginning I was doubtful - but then the farther I got into it - the more I was on your side - cheering for all those to live, live, live! I too am a two time cancer survivor and both times I have lived - and am still living. These things make us all think about what we want to do with the rest of our life. Thanks for the wonderful blog post. LIVE!