Why is Cancer so hard to talk about?
Last night I went to the cinema and one of the trailers was for a film called “The Fault in our Stars” , a film, adapted from the book of the same title, about a young girl’s life with cancer.
After the trailer finished the cinema was still and quiet, I swear you could have heard a pin drop. It was as though the reality of life had been shown on the big screen as a reminder to remain humble and grateful for your own health.
But I still wonder why people so often fall silent at the talk of cancer, or hearing about cancer? I find it most often with those around me who don’t work in a health/medical related field and aren’t exposed to it in day-to-day work. But anyone would see it day-to-day with everyday people who live in this city too, if you just take a second to look.
Is it a feeling of guilt that it is not something you think about often? Is it an ignorance to cancer and the reality of life? Or is it because one may have never known someone with cancer?
Why not fall silent with the talk of diabetes, or heart failure, or infectious diseases? Is it because there is more stigma in society that these are illnesses that could be somewhat more controllable, than Cancer. Or is it that cancer is so strong, so unfair, and at times so unpredictable, that the uncertainty and the unknown cause us discomfort that we would rather ignore?
The first person I lost to cancer in my life was my Grandma, and I was 13. I recall the day Dad came home from work and told us she had bowel cancer, I was washing the dishes after dinner. I recall visiting her and giving her juice to drink through a straw as she was barely eating or drinking. Then I recall the day I found out she had passed away, more vividly than most.
At first, I couldn’t understand how this could happen? How is that fair? How could people say that life goes on? Because at that point in time, I couldn’t fathom how any of the above could be ok. Yet now I am more aware that although it may not seem fair and yes life will never be the same without that person, but life does go on, albeit differently.
A wise lady taught me recently about the importance of non-reactivity. That a situation is what it is, you can’t add anything to it or take anything away from it although it may seem unbearable or unfair. Even if it is happy or sad, positive or negative, joyous or unpleasant, you have to sit with it and wait for it to pass. Although it may feel uncomfortable, and we are always uncertain when these feelings will go, they will pass eventually as everything is impermanent. Whether it be the uncertainty of feelings, moods, work, relationships, illness, health, I guess that is the one thing we know. Everything is impermanent.
“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
On Mother’s Day, why not pay tribute to all the mothers battling cancer, and all those who have lost a mother to Cancer. But also to one fighter in particular, who recently lost her battle to cancer, Jill Hursthouse. Your laugh and bursting personality will never be forgotten.
“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us everyday. Unseen, unheard but always near, still loved, still missed and held so dear.”