October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here at The Band, we're devoting October to ALL types of cancer. We'd be
honored to share any of your cancer stories.
When you have a "quirky" (i.e. profoundly, irreversibly, screwed-up) family, filling out the health history form at the doctor's office can be an emotional exercise. As I check off "Yes" under "family history of depression," I'm reminded of my great-grandfather's suicide, my grandpa's fondness for Valium and my mother's anxiety. When I acknowledge that not only am I blind as a bat without glasses, I admit that most of my relatives are too. And when I get to the "cancer" box, I remember my other great-grandfather, my grandma, my uncle and my dad, all of whom developed a form of cancer. As I fill in the details, I wonder when I'll be adding my name to the list.
For years, I thought my maternal grandmother was the only family relation with cancer. She had breast cancer in the 1970's and, as was the custom then, she had a double mastectomy, which fortunately left her cancer-free for the rest of her life. A sad event with a happy ending.
Then, two months ago, my uncle called my mom (his only sibling) to say that he has Stage IV throat cancer. He'd been complaining of a sore throat for months, but his doctor diagnosed him strep throat and gave him antibiotics. A later trip to an ENT led to the cancer diagnosis. Stage IV throat cancer is some serious shit - my uncle is undergoing 60 radiation treatments and numerous chemotherapy treatments; he has a feeding tube because he can't swallow. Things are pretty grim.
When my mom told me about my uncle, she said that their grandfather, my great-grandfather, died of throat cancer when he was in his 60's, the same as my uncle is now.
Later that week, my dad mentioned that he was going to have "a few" spots on his face lasered off - in case they were cancerous. After the procedure, I learned that he had twenty-five spots treated and two biopsied. A lifetime of working outdoors has made him a big, red target for melanomas. Now I'm worried about him, too - wondering if he would even tell me if he had cancer as my parents are divorced and my dad's single.
We're waiting to see whether the other stupid, ugly cancer shoe will drop on my uncle or dad. And I'm wondering when I'm going to end up with some irregular cells of my own; where they'll take residence. I'm furious that cancer has forced its way into our lives and made us anxious about the future. Cancer has NO business on my medical history form, or anyone else's.
Summarily: Cancer is Bullshit.