When you fight cancer you don’t just fight the cancer. I think most people have a peripheral understanding of this fact. This is what makes the disease so sinister. It has the ability to not only literally creep and crawl in and through your body searching for permanent residence, but it is also constantly attempting to take hold of everything in your life. The demons that you might have had before the cancer diagnosis don’t quiet because you or someone you love has been diagnosed. No, it’s quite the opposite. Cancer emits a clarion call to those demons to do their best to rip you and everyone you love apart from the inside out. So whatever struggle you might have been experiencing prior to cancer is no longer just a struggle, it’s a battle. And that battle, and all of the battles your family fights on your behalf and on their own culminate into one painful and exhausting war. A juggernaut of pain. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, loneliness, bedwetting, insomnia, alcohol dependence, avoidance, financial difficulty, issues with control, codependence, self-harm and thoughts of suicide, all of these issues are seemingly given the superpower of extreme growth by cancer.
These are also issues that anyone member of my family is experiencing or has experienced. It’s not just Trent’s medical condition that makes it a war. It’s the little personal battles we are all fight collectively that put this family in wartime conditions. It’s waking up to the reminder everyday that you or someone you love deeply has cancer. Everyday. It’s fighting to just act normal because you don’t want to upset your friends when they ask you how you’re doing, simply responding “I’m ok” because you don’t want them to feel one fraction of the pain you feel, knowing that it’s contagious. It’s choosing to pay for medicine instead of bills because you can live without your phone… It’s the sharp flash of the pain that you see in your child’s eye when they hear Daddy coughing, or the same flash you feel when your baby has connected the coughing he can hear through the wall in his bedroom to someone they love and ask you with innocent wonder if it’s “Daddy?” It’s the pain you lock deep inside until it “demands to be felt” because the last thing you want is for your mother to have to ‘deal’ with you too. The fight is literally drinking to forget, knowing full well that the peace found at the bottom of the empty bottle is devastatingly fleeting, and then drinking anyway. The fight is hearing about your amazingly brave friend, or that friend of a friend who was an advocate, who was taken by cancer too soon, leaving babies behind and coming to the realization that – A. you’ll experience that loss first hand eventually – and – B. you have to keep talking, writing, blogging, tweeting, doing whatever it takes to let people know that what is happening with this disease IS NOT OK because you can and you must, because you don’t have cancer. It’s waking up to the news of the passing of someone special, a gifted soul – understanding that cancer takes the music, too. It takes the music. The fight is constantly trying to keep everyone’s heads above water, without a life-vest for yourself.
I know we are not alone, and I thank you for that. It just feels that way sometimes. If you identify with anything that I’ve said, know that you are not alone either. The following organizations have been a tremendous help to us.