Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Can't We All Just Work Together?

My 2012 Avon walk TEAM
It seems lately I've noticed some things going on both in real life and in social media.

Okay, none of it's new, it's just bothered me more lately.

There's this whole cancer competition that some people take part in.
If you've been in it before, you know what I mean

Oh, you had cancer once? Well, I had it twice.
My tumor was way larger.
Huh, no chemo for you? Aren't you lucky. I did chemo.
Your doctor only gave you 28 radiation treatments? I did more.
16 rounds of chemo? Nice. I did 32.
Stage ii? I'm stage iii.
Stage iii? Oh I'm stage iv.
You did implants for reconstruction? I did diep. It's way better.
You still eat sugar? I gave it all up to be healthy.
Oh you think cancer sucks? I don't, so you're doing it wrong.
I worked through chemo. You didn't? It's a shame you aren't as strong as me.
Thyroid cancer? Pssh. That's easy cancer. I had brain cancer.
Oh you were treated at the local hospital? I went to the best downtown so I could have the greatest chance to be cancer free.

Alright, I admit - three of these I wrote based on what people implied. The rest, I've actually heard or read

Regardless, the cancer competition is strong in some people.
And all I can think is what the hell people?

Does it matter who had it worse? Doesn't it all just inherently suck?

Listen, I get it. Chemo sucks, so not getting chemo might seem easier, but maybe that person had to do radiation and that made them sick? Or have surgery that was hard to recover from? Or maybe that person has 2 young children so any treatment - with or without treatment was difficult. Or maybe that person didn't get sick, didn't have chemo, doesn't have other extenuating circumstances, but cancer still sucks.

Sure, we can argue that there are varying degrees of cancer suckage, but it all sucks none-the-less.

And guess what? If we are all sitting here worrying about who had it worse, if we are all busy fighting over what's "good" cancer and "bad" cancer, or dividing the community with ads where people say I have the "bad" cancer and I'm jealous of those with the "good" kind, how can we come together to fight against cancer. Together. All of us. One big group of people. Fighting to end cancer once and for all.

Cancer is a complicate disease, because it's not one disease - it's many diseases. Even in the same cancer - i.e. breast cancer - there are different subtypes.

Sometimes researchers try one treatment and discover not only did it help the cancer a they were studying, but it helps cancer b and cancer c and even cancer d. So we need to work together for all kinds of research - sometimes very, very specific types of research, and other times, wider research.

Sometimes congress tries to cut funding, so we need to join forces to write letters, make phone calls, rally people to also do that. We need to work together to make sure that funding is in place.

Sometimes, some organizations don't use the money in a good way. So we need to work together to make sure people know that is happening. To use our voices to encourage those organizations to do better.

All of us.
Not just one of us.
Or those that are in boat A, while ignoring those in boat B.

Not only that, but we need more than cancer patients and cancer survivors to join these ranks too - we need our families, our friends, our caregivers, our doctors, we need a lot of voices to join in with us so that we can be louder, stronger, heard.

But if those of us in the cancer community are bickering among ourselves, what will the people looking in see?

They won't see a group they want to join in. The won't see a cause they want to pick up and fight for. They will see infighting and complaining and brokeness and they won't want to be a part of it. Then those who are being downplayed, or made to feel less than will leave. They won't want to be a part of it either. And pretty soon, instead of coming together to work for a common cause, we will be left fractured, broken, and making smaller marks in this world.

This is not a legacy I want to be a part of.

This is not a competition I want to be a part of.

There aren't any gold medals for the person who has the worst.
There aren't any gold medals for doing cancer "right."
There aren't any gold medals for "being the best cancer patient."

The stakes, are infinitely higher than that.

If we won't, or can't, work together, we will continue to see really wonderful people die from cancer. We will not see science advance. We will not see some research happen.

People who have/had cancer will start to suffer from depression, anxiety, worry, pain, isolation, frustration alone. People who are already dealing with so much, will also spend time wondering why they can't do cancer right.

I do not want to be exclusive. I want to be as inclusive as possible. I want to talk about my cancer experience in an open and honest way, and I want you to have room to do that as well. I want us to work together, to raise our voices to fund research, push for better science, to help those that are struggling.

But ...
If you are going to turn cancer into a competition, I have to step away from that.
If you insist that how you do cancer is the right way, I have to step away from that.
If you are going to downplay an entire group of cancer patients as not as important because it's not your cancer, I have to step away from that.

So let's just not do that. Let's work together. Let's support each other. Let's acknowledge that at all stages, types, grades, subtypes - cancer just sucks. Period.

Because at the end of the day, cancer is cancer is cancer. If we can't all stand together regardless of type/stage/etc, how can we expect to find a way to get rid of it?

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Oh you had the good kind of cancer" without any understanding of how complicated my case actually was.

    And, there are no good cancers.


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