Often times when you hear shocking and unnerving words, your brain interprets them, but you don’t really feel and connect with them: genocide, terrorist attack, world hunger, etc. But, the most common one is quite surprising and tends to creep up on you: cancer.
Most of the people hear that word almost daily, myself included. But not until you meet with it in person do you actually realize what that word entails, what it brings, what it actually does. While many people react to it emotionally, something strange happened to me.
The ball drops
A parent will always try to put on a brave face in front of the kids, no matter the circumstances. And while the whole family was looking at a damningly bolded font on a white piece of paper depicting the harsh reality, my mind was racing as the word cancer sank in and took shape. My dad had it before (while I was in high school), beat it, but now it came back, like a hydra with two new heads instead of the old one we cut off. He was visibly distraught but still managed to put on a mask of bravery. My mom had already gone through all the scenarios in her head, and you could see that the bad ones held sway over the good ones. My sister, well, she is the silent one. She handled it in her own way, quietly and by keeping in solitude, seeking comfort in religion and prayer.
Coming back to a strange reaction, you first have to understand something about me. I am a problem driven person, meaning that if I don’t understand something, it interests me more than anything else in the world. And when I heard the word cancer, probably like many of you, I did not fully comprehend the situation. And as much as it may sound heartless and cold, my first emotion wasn’t hopelessness and sadness. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that quite possibly, my dad’s days are numbered. This was “the problem” for me, first and foremost. Maybe my sympathetic brain took a back seat in the wake of the news and my coping mechanism was to approach the situation from an intellectual standpoint. Or, maybe I am just built that way – a heartless bastard. This is perhaps the second worst thing about cancer: it affects everyone involved and has them questioning everything imaginable.
Everybody is different
If I were to give you a couple of guesses on what was my first emotion, many of you probably could never figure that one out. It was motivation. And it was stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I was motivated to do everything in my power to bring the control back to our side. That is the most sinister thing about this disease: it takes away your control. You see, most of the time, a disease has a cause and knowing exactly what caused it brings you a dose of calmness and closure when you get cured. Not cancer. Whether they are environmental, genetic, or simply unknown, the causes rarely matter afterward. You know why? Because it usually takes time for them to affect you, and in many cases, you have no power over them.
After hearing this word, after comprehending that it touched me in the most personal way apart from having cancer myself, I was motivated to understand, to figure it out, to completely dissect it from each and every angle in order to be able to fight it. For my dad, my mom, my sister and myself. A struggle with cancer is not a battle of a one person against one enemy. It is a war that your entire family wages against a squad of shadow assassins that have no honor, no limit, no restraints, no compassion. I declared that war mere seconds after the news. Everything else in my life fell into perspective, nothing was comparable to the magnitude of that moment. It will forever be remembered as one of the defining moments of my life, a sort of a harsh reality check.
I know many of you can relate to this sinister word and have experienced its ugly influence up close. I demystified it as much as I could as I collected the knowledge – ammunition for the upcoming war. I only hope that some of you who are going through the same experience will find strength to fight and claw with all the things at your disposal. Raising awareness is the only thing I can do, and I will do my best to help others understand this disease in order to be able to fight it.