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July 28, 2005

Popping Cancer Reflection: Why It's Hard To Talk About

I'm not dying and I don't plan to die any time soon. Still, I'm sick enough that this passage resonates with me.

From Patient Encounters: The Experience of Disease by James Buchanan:

"This whole business of dying is so completely misunderstood by the living. The assorted visitors, well-wishers, bereaved family members, curious doctors, distracted nurses, angry attendants, that one receives throughout the day are like travelers in a foreign country. They enter the court and kingdom of the patient but only on official business of import and export; they tarry not, nor do they adopt the local customs of the country within which they find themselves. Indeed there is an arrogance, even an insolence to these tourists which is the insulation by which they protect themselves against the contamination of death. After all, what do they know of pain, sweat and incontinence, putrefaction of rotting flesh and the sheer humiliation of not being about to control your own bladder and bowels? They measure your fever but they do not suffer it. They study your blood but they do not bleed it. They palpate your liver, your spleen, your guts; but they do not feel them. They hear your heart and yet cannot feel its weakened beat; they measure your blood pressure and yet cannot feel its intensity; they peer with curious abandon into the various interstices, holes, canyons, craters of your body and yet are never part of the great cavern you have become. They are guests, not residents, of this house of death which you inhabit. How then could they possibly understand?"

Maybe this is why these reflections have gotten more and more rare. I'm at the stage now where I just have to suffer until it's over and cured. As much as I write about how hard chemotherapy days are, or how frustrating it is not to be able to use either of my lungs right now, or how walking across the room leaves me gasping for air, I still can't communicate really and truly how it FEELS.

In a way I'm glad for it. I don't honestly want you to have to understand what it feels like. At the same time, it makes me feel like I'm not only sick, but on an island.

Cancer is a jerk and I hate it.

Posted by Dan at July 28, 2005 10:11 PM

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