I have this community.
It’s not a group anyone would join willingly. But, it is a group I see every week. There’s age range and a mix of male and female. There’s a group leader. We talk and talk and sometimes we leave uplifted and sometimes we leave feeling worse than when we came. If it sounds like an AA meeting, it isn’t.
What it is, is a cancer support group. As it happens, most people in my group, myself included are striving hard to live, to be around to write another book, sing another song, act in a play or knit a scarf. The people generally have a pretty grim prognosis. We share Stage Four cancer: lung, breast, brain, prostate, you name it. Many weeks I wonder what we have in common that took us to this place. Did we all drink from too many plastic bottles of water? Did we fail to exercise enough? What, oh what, did we do to end up in this group? Many weeks I don’t want to make the turn into the driveway to be in a cancer support group again, to sign in as the Patient. I am anything but patient. I want to do what I planned to do at this stage of my life! But, as in the blog I wrote about reading and choices. I know that what I have, is now, at this moment, in this group, right now with these people that I truly care about. I have this and if I throw it away because I keep looking over my shoulder at the life I had or imagined, then I have nothing at all.
I wasn’t sure that I’d talk at all about this part of my life. But I am talking about it because I feel that people do not know much about Stage Four Cancer. It’s not their fault that they don’t know very much. There isn’t much education or research dollars that goes into Stage Four Cancer. How could anyone know? I admire researchers. I am grateful for good treatment and health insurance and support. I am grateful to be able to be writing this. Still, do you know that even is a woman is treated early with breast cancer, there is at least a thirty percent chance the cancer will recur and/or become metastatic? Do you know that often the funds that are raised for big events—I will name no names—do NOT go for research and “the cure?”
The plea of people with Stage Four Cancer is: Stage Four Needs More! (meaning funding, of course) So true. Please don’t think that it’s someone’s fault that they’re Stage Four. Don’t assume that if someone has lung cancer because she or he smoked. I used to think that was the case. It is not. Most lung cancer diagnosis are for NON SMOKERS. (And even if they smoked a carton a day, would they deserve cancer?) Reject the idea that if that woman had only gone for a mammogram on time, she would not be diagnosed with Stage Four. It isn’t true.
It’s true that a Stage Four diagnosis does not seem as appealing to treat or research as a Stage One diagnosis that will, hopefully, have a great outcome. It’s not horrible to want to cheer the winning team, not the struggling team. (unless we like underdogs.)
I like underdogs! I want the people in this group I am in to survive. I want them to be able to grow old, to have grandkids. At least, I want them to be around and having a good quality of life two or three years from now. Then maybe five? Is that even possible? Time would be great.
I want the people in my group to be vocal in asserting themselves and advocating for more funds. I want the mentality of silo thinking (researchers keep their findings to themselves) to be gone. Oh I want so much! Then I need to remind myself yet again to be where I am and do the good it is possible to do. (Some days it seems like not very much)
Anyone can receive a diagnosis and find themselves wondering how they got to Cancerland. They were never planning to go there! Their plane must have been plane hijacked. The place they wanted to go was Italy. This place, Cancerland is like a very bad Motel Six in a cheesy shopping mall. No. They don’t want to be in this place at all. Heck, even the corner party store would be better… if they could only say once again with surety in their voice, “Yeah, I plan to do that in a few years.” Yeah for the underdogs!