It is not always easy to sustain a mature perspective on life. Virtually all of us want to live long and healthy lives, and we experience varying degrees of anger when that wish is challenged. Of course we want to be around to watch our grandchildren grow up, but that goal can feel pretty lucky when the next person in the support group has 2 year old twins herself and does not anticipate seeing them reach kindergarten. It feels scary and sad and awful to be diagnosed with cancer when we are in our 60s or 70s or 80s, but it is not unreasonable to pause for a second and be grateful that this news did not come to us thirty years earlier.
Please do not misunderstand. I am fully empathetic towards the distress anyone or any age feels about having cancer. I will admit having moments of frustration in my professional life when someone (and this has happened only a few times) in her late 80s was proclaiming her fury towards the fates that she was now ill. I did manage to restrain myself and not point out that, even without cancer, hadn't she begun to think about the reality of death?
This is an introduction to a fine essay by Steve Buttry from Stat News:
I just got my third cancer diagnosis — but that’s not why I’m angry
Over the Fourth of July weekend, several friends liked some Facebook photos I was in, commenting that I
“looked good.” I do look good. I don’t say that boastfully, but kind of ruefully, having just come from the
MD Anderson Cancer Center where I got my third major cancer diagnosis. This time it’s pancreatic cancer.
There are no good types of pancreas tumors, but mine is the worst. These cancers don’t have good survival
rates, even when caught early.
While waiting for appointments and test results at the cancer center, I had lots of time to read news
reports about the bizarre developments in the presidential race and about the horrific violence from and
against police, starting with a shooting in Baton Rouge, the city where I live, and continuing with an
ambush of police here last weekend. I couldn’t look away from the news and yet I couldn’t really focus on
it, either. Big stories often trigger the reporter instinct, an urge to rush out and cover the story (or at least
blog about it from afar or read and watch the news insatiably). But when you’re hooked up to an IV, on the
lookout for pathology results, or awaiting exploratory surgery, even that instinct turns numb.