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Illness, diagnosis, treatment

When I was in middle school, my school's vice principal's son, aged three, died of leukemia. The whole school knew this was happening, in part because the vice principal was involved in everyone's music education and knew everyone, in part because it was a Catholic school and we were asked to keep the son in our prayers. Hearing about JB's story was my first experience of cancer. "Cancer" became one of those shapeless dreads, joining "Nuclear Holocaust" - one of those things that's difficult to grasp, cannot be prevented, won't appear at a convenient time.

"Cancer" is used as a marketing tool, deviously, especially in the "food as medicine" realm. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which reduces the risk of prostate cancer, declares a ketchup bottle.

In high school, while we learned about DNA replication and mutation, our Biology teacher told us that it has been estimated that a person winds up producing cancerous cells around six times over the course of his or her lifetime. Supposedly, in the majority of those cases, the body actually eventually figures out what's going on and the immune system clears out the problem before it ever becomes noticeable.

I've heard it noted, too, that we've gotten almost too good at mammogramming boobs, leading to a high number of cancer scares. Meanwhile, the number one preventable cause of death for women is...heart disease.

Multiple people I know protest against the concept of "battling" cancer.

It's impossible to form long, flowing paragraphs on the subject.

All of this runs through my head as I read this article.

Comments

( 2 remarks — Remark )
thewronghands
Jan. 16th, 2015 02:52 am (UTC)
I feel like a lot of what I've done on the topic is listen. When I had cancer, it was surprising that the weight of cultural OH NO DEATH SENTENCE was so heavy, particularly when the cancer I had wasn't that bad. (And, contrarily, the amazing free pass to do or say or think anything you want when you have cancer that people give you. Which expires once you no longer do.) I am not going to tell anyone who has it how they should feel... I just try to listen and nudge towards what we do know if I think it will be well received. But lots of people are really eager to tell you what they know about it, which is necessarily incomplete. (I was baffled by some of the comments on my recent post, which seemed to indicate that they thought I thought eating dark chocolate was going to totally fix my thyroid or something. I was aiming for a discussion about tastes and got a sort of Nutrition/Science/Marketing Analysis 101 instead, which I was surprised that people thought I needed to be told. But I didn't want to get into a ridiculous argument about "no, I didn't think that, I thought you thought I thought that!" so I mostly let it go.)

I wonder if we are culturally evolving our sense of cancer from the Big Scary towards something that just happens a bunch and is varying levels of bad depending on which roll of the dice you got. In a way, it was kind of a problem of success for me... we're doing well in not getting killed off by other things, mostly, so that we get to a point where mutation and accumulation can be what does us in. It's a really weird sort of optimism, but it's there.
rebeccmeister
Jan. 16th, 2015 08:49 pm (UTC)
Yes. Some astute, quite personal observations, on your part, regarding the listening aspect. Maybe the C-Word brings out a whole bunch of different superstitions and feelings all at the same time.
( 2 remarks — Remark )

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