Beltane                                                                         Closing Moon

Cancer still on my mind. This time the battle, war, fighting, struggle words so often attached to thoughts about it. Cancer caused 585,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2013. That’s a city, a whole city the size of Tucson or Milwaukee. From this social perspective perhaps a fight against or a battle against or a war against cancer makes some sense. That’s a lot of people to lose and war would be fought if some nation took out Tucson or Milwaukee.

On a personal level though, say my level, those militant words feel like the wrong metaphor. Cancer is not, in my body, an outside invader that has breached my defenses. No, it’s more like a group of deluded idealists, a utopian commune to which I (or at least parts of me) belong, dedicated to the concept of their own immortality. To extend this metaphor the commune might grow and grow and grow, taking resources from the larger population until everyone outside the commune starves.

Another metaphor might be mental illness. Gripped by the illusion that certain actions will make me live forever, I first cut off a foot and eat it, then a hand. Later, hungrier still, I cut off a leg. At some point there will be nothing left to feed the illusion, but the conviction remains and I take no other sustenance. Death results.

Cancer, of course, has no motive. It has no intention, other than survival. Yet, it is my own cells gone off on their own, to a different rhythm than the rest. As they grow, zombie like, staying alive when they should be dead, cancer recruits other cells to supply it. The host, me, must furnish more and more resources to keep the cancer cells alive. This process has a finite limit.

Cancer cells are more horror movie than battlefield. The first step, it seems to me, is to stop seeing cancer as an enemy and begin to see it for what it is, a deviation from normal cellular processes that left unchecked will slowly consume the host from the inside. It is not fear or violence that will put a stop to it, but careful application of known techniques like surgery (removal), chemotherapy and radiation (to stop the zombie cells). Will these techniques always succeed? No. Not right now.

Horror movies rely on fear for their effect. So do the metaphors of war. We need to back away from both and demythologize this monster. See it clearly. Then, deal with it.



This entry was posted in Faith and Spirituality, Health, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Science. Bookmark the permalink.

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