A Profound Typo

While reading the obituaries last week, I came across this line:

“She died after a long ballet with cancer.”

Oh yes, I thought, cancer is more like a ballet than a battle! The dance is long and involved, with many steps, variations and rhythms. The choreography changes sometimes weekly—your dance partners (GP, oncologist, surgeon, pathologist, dosimetrist, chemo nurses) revolve around you in dizzying array. In addition there are the cancer pharmacists to whom you have access when you have doubts about your nausea drug, about how many opioids it is safe to take, what to do about the blisters in your mouth and throughout your digestive tract after chemo. Added to the dance may be the dancers in your cancer support group—other souls going through what you are now experiencing, giving encouragement, advice, holding onto you when you melt into tears. There are pauses in the dance to learn about chemo-brain, about neuropathy in your dancing toes, about whether or not you want to have nipples tattooed upon your reconstructed breasts, or where to go to get your free wig. Then there are the inevitable funerals—the memorial services for those you love who have lost the “ballet.”

Each day the obituaries are there to tell us who we have lost, how young, how hard they fought, (in some cases, how carefully they kept their cancer a secret from the public). Sometimes the stories are about calculated survival, about double mastectomies done to prevent the inevitable before a trace of cancer appears. Famous TV personalities let the cameras into their hospital rooms to trace the ordeals of bone marrow transplants and weeks of chemotherapy. Children with cancer get a boost from the “Make A Wish” foundation. But cancer surely is the shadow that haunts us all. My grandmother Fanny died of “a stone in the stomach,” and my father died at 56 from leukemia that was treated then with the most primitive of medicines, a chemical used in WW Two called “mustard gas.”

My own five year mark comes up in March. I know it is just another day, but I await it like one awaits a precious and desired signal, a signal that says “Yes, you may go on! You may go on!”

 

 

 

 

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