Cancer Prepared Us For This

We were primed for this pandemic. We who have lived through the explosion of normal into shards of incredulity and horror. We who remember the day of diagnosis, life’s seismic shift when lofty dreams switched to, I want to live! 

We remember the dawning realization that there will be no reassembling life to resemble our own BCE. Before Cancer Entered.  Now abbreviated for Before Covid-19 Entered, stage left, to own the stage, fill the seats and to engage us all.

We, the cancer-diagnosed, know that there will be no “getting back to normal” there is simply moving forward, a veil ripped from our eyes. And I see this as our opportunity to support others through their own fire of transformation. To remember what we needed, longed for, what reassured and encouraged us.

I have heard rumblings on cancer forums of resentment that what had to be borne alone, as the one with the life-altering diagnosis, is now being felt by all of humanity and that this is somehow easier. I have heard resentment that FINALLY now they get a taste of what we went through alone, when no-one understood. An embittered spit that maybe now they might actually know how it feels. 

This is grief talking; the painful, angry sorrow of unresolved grief. And here is our opportunity to revisit, resolve and transform that grief into wisdom and compassion for others.

When your life is threatened by cancer there is the terror of being alone; the painful isolation of the threat being internal, unseeable, an experience inexplicable to others. It is a terrible isolation and then comes the advice, the opinion, the viewpoint, the telling. You are awash with other people knowing better, having a clearer mind, an expertise. There is the confusion and the desperate need to trust. 

You are faced with crucial choices that are based on wholly different parameters and, sometimes, on none at all. The soft rug of taking the future for granted is pulled out from under your feet, yet only yours. Your loved-ones can only watch and you cannot begin to explain.

There is the shocked incredulity as everyone else continues as if normal exists and yet you know otherwise. There is the heart-wrenching probability of someone you are close to getting cancer in their future, God forbid our children! Do you as a friend rupture that blind oblivion that protects; the ‘It won’t happen to me’ that we all shuffle along with? That too is futile.

It is an obtuse plot-twist that has us now preferring this collective pandemic-sense when finally the world wakes-up from the assumption that all is fine, all is well, all will continue as planned. This, in spite of the whistle blowers, the canaries in the coal-mine, the screaming of scientists who measure ice, oceans and life. And the Grandmothers who reassuringly prophesied this time.

Now we are seeing the emotional stages play out globally.

The shock. The denial. 

The blaming. The shaming. 

The call to fight. 

The dropping to your knees with a howl. 

The boredom.

The pent-up rage that spills onto each other in hateful ways, simply nowhere else for it to go but within these four walls.

The trepidation – is it my body’s turn to suffer? Will I live?

The hyper-vigilance – is that a dry cough? What are these body chills?

The denial – it won’t come here.

Cancer prepared us for this. And now we must help.

We have the training to dig deep and to reach out in whatever way we have. Perhaps in ways others reached out to us.

It is now our turn to help.

~ ~ ~

I have also written a poem, Cancer Prepared us for This. Head over here to read it.