There was an article this week that seemed to get a lot of attention this week. The writer, someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, made the case for stopping warlike language when talking about cancer. Language like “fight cancer”.
And to that author I say ba-humbug!
To not call this a fight to “just show up to your appointments” and “do what you are told to do” doesn’t begin to describe our lives this year.
Today, six months to the day after diagnosis, Josh went back to school. I’m not there with him but I have a pretty clear idea of what it will be for him. He will be walking from class to class, slower than the two bells allow and getting there late. His friends will join him at his slow pace – using it as a platform for their own small act of rebellion. Even though I made his best friend promise to carry Joshua’s bag, I know Josh will be carrying it himself. He wont say anything but the bag is too heavy for him. By now (four hours in) his face will have taken on the drawn, sunken-cheek look which he gets when he’s tired or in pain. His wheelchair is waiting in reception if he needs it but that will stop him “feeling normal” so he’ll keep plodding on. And even though he’s slow and tired and probably in pain he will get in the car and tell me that today was “great.” And it was. It was a victory.
If we’d just done what we were told Josh would be dead. His first doctor told him he had two months to live. They sent him home, without treatment, to die. Initially Josh (and Shannon and I) did what the doctor told us. We accepted the prognosis. We went home.
And then Joshua’s best friend decided to fight cancer. He fought with his Mom (also a doctor). He stopped going to school. He stayed in his room. He accused of being a bad doctor. So she started reading oncology journals. And then she decided to fight cancer too. First she fought with the paediatric oncologist to get them to consider treatments. When she couldn’t get anywhere she fought with me to get Josh to a different doctor.
And then we fought to get an adult oncologist to treat a child.
And then Josh fought his way through six rounds on chemotherapy.
And then he fought his way out of wheelchair, back on to his feet and ultimately back to school.
And then he fought his way through three (soon to be four) surgeries.
And today we will go off and see if it’ll be possible to fight cancer using a new treatment which isn’t approved in this country yet.
We are tired. We are overwhelmed. We are often terrified. But dammit we are fighting.
Of course I believe it is a war and a war that I am prepared to get deep into the trenches to fight. Josh is my child. Of course I’m a bloody warrior and of course I will fight this fight with every joule of energy I can muster.
I refuse to be one of those timid souls who “know neither victory nor defeat.” I keep on fighting.