I have a grudging respect for cancer. Cancer doesn't care about boundaries. It doesn't care if it is crowded -- if healthy cells are right next to it, cancer pushes through. Cancer can lie dormant for years and then recur with even more energy than it had before. It can stop responding to drugs, change, and conquer its pharmaceutical enemies. It can mask itself with subtle symptoms, disguising itself as such benign things as indigestion, bloating, or a backache. Cancer uses sneak attacks and hostile takeovers with equal diligence. It experiences near constant growth when untreated. I hate cancer, but I respect it.
Because cancer is so resilient, and so relentless, it requires a certain kind of energy and strength of its victims: the patients who fight it and the nurses and doctors who treat them. It makes us work tirelessly.
In any battle, you have to know your enemy. You have to know and respect its strengths, and you have to fortify your own weaknesses. This is what I admire about my patients. They fight a battle against a wily enemy.
Cancer doesn't give up, but neither do the patients. They fight back with positive attitudes, education, and treatment. They go to support groups together. They participate in fundraisers, and they bemoan their baldness with humor. Whatever cancer throws at them, they handle it with aplomb. Even when they lose the battle and die of their disease, most of them win the war. They find peace and comfort. Cancer doesn't stop them from crossing special tasks off their bucket lists, loving their families, or having meaning in life.
The battle against cancer brings out the best in nurses and physicians, too. It's a complex disease, and the body of knowledge required to give high-quality patient care is extensive and expanding constantly. These dedicated people don their armor and go to war with cancer. They keep themselves educated on new and innovative treatments and symptom management. They know that quality patient care depends on their skills and knowledge. They know they are on the patient's side of the battle, and they are prepared for the fight.
Cancer researchers are working hard to find a cure for cancer, and cancer is working hard all the time, too. Tireless researchers work to find ways to finally stop a tireless disease.
There are days when I am tired, and there are too many things on my to do list. There are days when I have had enough. Some days, I wake up in the morning and just want to sink deeper into the covers, wishing I had just a little energy to face the day ahead. On days like these, I get to work and remember that cancer isn't tired. It isn't resting. It is coming up with new ways to wreak havoc. In that way, maybe I could be a little more like cancer. I can be tireless, too!
We may respect cancer's resilience and get frustrated and angry, but thanks to the army on our side, we don't have to be intimidated by it. One thing is for sure: If cancer were a real person, it ought to be scared of us!