I want to first disqualify myself by saying I have not had Covid-19. At least not that I know of. Or not yet. But I have ‘had’ cancer. In 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My cancer credentials are more robust however. My husband died of brain cancer when he was 41. I have also known, very personally, what it is like not to breathe. There are a few differences between cancer and corona that I see.
I have also known, very personally, what it is like not to breathe. In 2012 I developed a rampant pneumonia and was on a ventilator and in a coma for 18 days. This was very similar to how the Corona virus can progress – and end. But I am the lucky one. I lived to tell the tale. I hope all these things have made me a better person. That is the gift of hardships.
Just this week I have had a few conversations supporting cancer patients. I have sat with a mother whose 12-year-old son was dying of cancer. A 15-year-old high school sport star diagnosed with leukemia. While the world’s focus is on another C, their lives privately and quietly changed forever. This was not reported in a running tally on CNN.
This blog is in support of all those people who walk the cancer journey.
There are a few differences between cancer and corona that I see.
1. Cancer kills more people. Around 10 million people DIE of cancer a year, every year. It doesn’t focus on the old and the immune compromised. It takes out young, old, healthy, fit, cool, crazy, awesome, undeserving people. It is not discerning.
2. Covid-19 is honest. It’s a virus. It is predictable and honest in that way. You ‘catch’ it and you can protect yourself. Cancer has no such scruples. Cancer is a sneaky, unpredictable, covert assassin. You don’t ‘catch it’ from the checkout queue doing groceries. You don’t feel sick. The day I found a lump in my breast I was 38, I was fit and healthy. I was in a bikini on a Greek island having the summer of my life with my two young kids and the future had never looked so darn sweet. Bam. Gone.
3. Corona has a group comfort. The whole world is involved. We are all moaning, laughing, eating, crying, fighting, getting anxious, doing home schooling, making memes, mourning and putting on weight together.
In cancer you stand alone. Your friend may drive you to the hospital, another may drive you home. Awesome friends come and visit, they hold your hand, they cry with you and say it’s not fair. They bring chicken soup. Then they go home to their NORMAL lives –with work and gym and a future. But you alone face the doctors, surgery or treatment. You alone have the anxiety, paranoia and fear. You alone must face your death, or your life.
4. You can recover from Covid-19. Or develop immunity. Cancer is the Sword of Damocles that hangs over your head forever. There is no immunity. I say I ‘had’ cancer because cancer has the audacity to never really let you know if it has well and truly gone. We call it ‘remission’. Like it’s just hiding. We hope it’s fucked off – well and truly – if we are lucky enough to have a treatment plan. We pray and chat and meditate. We eat vegan and pay all sorts of ‘healers’ extraordinary amounts to tell us they know best, or we can bio hack our bodies. We all do our very best to keep it away for as long as we can.
It’s a crapshoot.
5. Both Cs trigger deeply profound fears of death. In many cases - sheer terror. A fear of death is very sensible and rational. Nobody wants to die. But it seems to me that the medicalization of the world makes us think we CAN’T die. That there is something very wrong if someone dies. Indecent almost. We medicate, intubate and treat – often it is genius and often it is beyond the realms of decency IMHO.
Us Cancer Warriors know this is not true.
We sure can die.
We sure do die.
Lots of us.
Corona is showing the world that face and it is truly TERRIFYING.
Nature will prove to be final word.
Sneaky bastard of a thing.
This article is in support of all those people who walk the cancer journey. Particularly those on chemo. Or those afraid.
You may also want to read my other blogs