Cancer, in a word, cuts to the chase. Procrastination feels obscene, an entitlement no longer allowed. After all, how long will I have the luxury of babbling my inner or outer most thoughts—some inane, others that may on a good day approach profound—into the abyss of the virtual void of the blogosphere?
Cancer is something almost no one wants to discuss, not even doctors. They dance around the diagnosis with detailed explanations of medical procedures buffered by words linked in phrases of encouragement, for example, prognosis and cure, stages (of which I am “early”) and positive outcome, etc. They did not tell me, for example, that the “prognosis” for early stage lung cancer survival rates beyond five years is 49%. That was left to the blogs and various medical research websites to do.
In all fairness, I shouldn’t only paint doctors into this awkward corner. Most people, beyond the “I’m so sorry to hear that” don’t really want to know how I feel or what array of thoughts (sad, purposeful, hopeless, hopeful, anger, disbelief, incredulous, bizarre, stoic and so on) I have, sometimes in the course of one day. I understand this at one level. Humans are hardwired for survival and engaging with the world as part of the living. It is difficult to engage with someone who may be joining the world of the dying. It is a rare gift to be present for those that may not or will not be physically present in the near rather than the far future. This may also be due to the bothersome fact that most of us are hardwired to fix things, even the cycle of life experienced in the birth and death of all living matter.
Playing the why game, a morbid game of 20 questions, is one I quickly learned not do as a chaplain. And, I no longer desire to entertain myself further by running the 20 odd questions through my head regarding the probable diagnosis of cancer, although I’m open to vile diseases spread by aliens invading from other universes. Aliens seem as plausible as “non-smokers cancer”. Is this some perverse payback for staring down smokers who lit up at inappropriate times and places? Perhaps they should call it, “just breathing during the normal course of life and tough luck” cancer. Is the environment really that bad? I even dove into the musty recesses of my mind to figure out if I used chemical paint strippers one too many times on furniture I was refinishing decades ago. Alas, I have asked these questions to no avail. Continue reading