Life, Interrupted: Fighting Cancer, and Myself

22 Jun

By SULEIKA JAOUAD

Photo Credit: Shayla Harris/The New York Times

There is a dreadful routine to chemotherapy. My life has been synched to a chemotherapy calendar ever since my leukemia diagnosis last year. I have become an expert at predicting when side effects and symptoms will set in. It’s a ghoulish monthly party, and the guests always arrive on time: nausea, vomiting, chills, exhaustion, fever, mouth sores, pain, infections and emergency hospitalizations.

Despite the clockwork of these cycles (start chemo, wait for symptoms, get sick, go to the hospital), at the start of every new round I convince myself that the outcome will be different. This time, I am going to be stronger than my treatment. This time, my mind will outwit my body. This time.

But over the past year, after 28 rounds of treatment, not once have I “won” this secret battle with myself.

The cancer world is awash in battle language. Our culture repeats these warlike phrases over and over, like mantras. Cancer books love to traffic in this take-no-prisoners language. They talk about cancer “warriors,” fighting and winning a battle for health. They even encourage patients to visualize chemotherapy as a sea of soldiers entering the bloodstream to fight off the enemy disease. In a lot of ways, it’s an attractive line of thinking. It’s the hero’s journey mixed with the glorification of war. It’s the us-versus-them theme — except in this case it’s us-versus-us. Cancer is one’s own civil war.

Continue reading, here.

Follow @suleikajaouad on Twitter and on her Facebook Page.


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One Response to “Life, Interrupted: Fighting Cancer, and Myself”

  1. Scott Schrum June 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    After I was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, I realized there was no “good” news or “bad” news: There was just news: Some news led to one set of options, and some news would lead to a different set of options.

    I didn’t (and still don’t) know whether I was going to live or die. I could assume that I was going to die, unless told otherwise, or I could assume that I was going to live unless told otherwise. Either were equally valid. I realized that I could choose which assumption to hold, so I chose the latter.

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