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Rethinking the Big C vs. the Big P
from Faust

Ed: Long time, no writing. Sorry about that; I've continued to enjoy the site every month. I just have a (hopefully) brief comment, and I promise to write more when I have more time.

PD's note about how in some ways 'the Big C' might be preferable to 'the big P' struck a chord with me, and it sent me through a quick progression of emotions [In a Sense, Those with Cancer are Luckier]. At first, I had a touch of how dare you outrage, coupled with a streak of we cannot afford to pity ourselves. This edge quickly softened when I saw that PD was aware of how his/her words might sound, and I slowed down to read more carefully. Then, I couldn't help but think, hey, that's a good point, and finally wound up firmly on PD's side. You capped it off with your knowing response. As always, you're a calm dose of perspective.

I've written a couple of times before, when I've been in one of my inspirational, never-say-die, I'm tougher-than-P moods, and thought I could pass on a little of that spirit to my Flaky brothers and sisters. I still do believe in a brave face and a stiff upper lip, and that our greatest weapon — in both the fight against P and the fight to live with it — is a kind of bruised optimism.

But PD's point cannot be denied: it's a certain kind of existential torture to suffer from our condition. We're all Sisyphus, and P is the boulder we roll up our hills.

Sometimes I think about how life would be different if I didn't have the gene for P. It's an endless game, of course, because who knows if I'd even be the person I am without having faced my insecurity and doubt? I probably wouldn't have been so eager to start a grown-up career if I didn't have need of health insurance benefits.... I might have backpacked across Europe if skipping a shower for a day or six didn't mean piles of flakes and nasty itching.... I might be living in a van right now playing cruddy little bars and coffee shops like the Bob Dylan devotee I secretly am (instead of just serenading the living room furniture with my guitar).

But ultimately, I don't know. True, if you have cancer, it gets respect and understanding in a way P does not. Say the word, and you can decide you're going to be strong or shattered, angry or accepting, and people will be on your side. They'll support your choice. They'll call you brave just for getting through the day. With P, we get stupid, well-meaning questions, we get unsolicited advice, we get family members assessing our progress like amateur clinicians (well, I do, anyway). What's not to hate?

So I do see PD's point. But I think his/her note is a good parallel to the advice given by those who have faced cancer, or AIDS, or MS, or any of the other conditions that, while it may not be entirely fair to call them worse than P, are certainly different, maybe more intense or sharper where P is dull and constant: They tell us to hate the disease for intruding on our life, not to hate our life for having the disease in it.

More than anything else, I think P lends itself to that latter kind of outlook. The fact that, more often than not, we have the luxury of telling ourselves P doesn't matter, is both P’s weakness and our advantage. If we decide it doesn’t matter, nothing stops us from going out and proving it. Because of that, I'd rather be hating P and loving life than hating cancer and loving life. -Faust


Ed’s Response: Well argued, old friend! If this is the kind of thinking you produced after going through a "quick progression of emotions," I’m going to have to figure out how to goose your emotions more often. Thanks for giving this to us. -Ed

All readers:  If you haven’t already, read these contributions from Faust:

Dovonex Worked — While I was Insured 

An Update and Motivational Speech

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