Monday, December 15, 2008

Living through cancer

A friend and I are gathering material for a how-to guide for cancer patients. Last week's JAMA had an interesting essay on that subject by Deborah Lewis, a social worker and breast cancer survivor. Titled "Legacy," her comments address her cancer experience as it relates to her father's death from heart disease. In particular, she found herself "playing follow-the-leader behind my father's tough but frail, limping frame" because she discovered that parents teach their children how to handle illnesses, aging, and death. She notes:

Before I got sick I thought people could choose how to confront serious illness. Once could either wallow in self-pity or buck up and move that rubber tree plant. Now that I've had cancer I understand that there is no deliberation and thought. You handle it the way you are going to handle it. Either you have high hopes or you don't; sometimes the ant just can't.

But she proves that she mostly can, living through her treatment in the way she saw her dad manage his own heart disease. Her imagined conversation with him:

Me: One time I threw up while I was running, heaving behind a distant neighbor's bush, my hands braced on my knees while the sweat dripped off my forehead. I wiped my mouth with a leaf and finished my run.
Dad: You're proud of that, aren't you? The vomiting and running thing?
Me: Yes, actually. I am.
Dad: I am too.

1 comment:

JeanMac said...

Oh, so touching a story.