Since being diagnosed with Lymphocyte Rich Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in January I have been one of almost 12 million people in the United States who is fighting cancer, and then, the other day and seemingly from out of nowhere in particular, I had a thought: “How am I fighting cancer?”. I mean if someone is in the armed forces and exchanging fire with the enemy then it’s easy to say that person is fighting for something or against something. A boxer gets into the boxing ring and puts some physical effort into trying to win the fight by knocking out their opponent. Athletes who drop down the field for some reason are often said to be fighting their way back into contention but you don’t generally see them punching their opponents in a passing manoeuvre during the 1500 metres do you? So, what does it actually mean to be fighting cancer?
Clearly for there to be a fight there has to be some kind of contest or competition. In this case there is. The cancer is trying to kill me and is hurting my loved ones as it does so, and I don’t want it to do that, so, yes, there is a competition for my body – we’ll just leave the question of whether or not there is a soul to compete for out of this shall we. The cancer is trying to replicate itself and take over my body, but what am I actually doing about it? I take myself off to the oncologist once a fortnight (well actually my wife takes me as the cancer came before I could take my Florida driver’s licence, although I wouldn’t trust myself behind the wheel of a car at the minute as my concentration is so patchy that I’d be dangerous). So, not much fighting going on there then is there, riding shotgun in the car is scarcely like the old cowboy films could be expected to have to fight his way through all the baddies in their black hats and shirts before he got the girl at the end of the trail – anyway I already have my girl! My oncologist’s staff run their usual blood tests so there’s not much fighting going on there by me is there. I mean just sitting back and letting a nurse squeeze blood from my finger tip is scarcely Horatio holding the bridge. Even though my old school motto was translated as “Bravely hold the gate”, I don’t think that giving blood to a nurse was the kind of fighting Archbishop Holgate had in mind all those centuries ago. Next comes the chat with my oncologist. A bit of to-ing and fro-ing in the question and answer session perhaps, but certainly nothing which might be interpreted as a contest. Then we come the oncology nurses. They stick the hook into my port (perhaps that’s the “portum” of my school song?” and pump me full of chemotherapy chemicals which will attack my body including the cancer which is growing in it. So, is this fighting cancer? Does it count as fighting cancer if I am at same time allowing the action to attack my body and make me ill? It’s a strange thought isn’t it that, in order to fight the cancer we try, quite deliberately, to commit a kind of slow suicide with the intention that we fail to kill ourselves. So, does that count as fighting cancer and if it does is it me doing the fighting? I’m happy to accept that this is the real act of fighting the cancer but it still is really not me doing the fighting is it? I’m simply providing my body as a battle ground to prove the researchers and medical people with proof that they got their calculations correct. Other than that pretty much all I do is eat and sleep and they are pretty natural functions of the human body so I’m not sure that they can really be said to be fighting actions. I think where the difference does come in is in the mind. That is where the main battle is being fought by me. I try to train my mind to remain positive, to believe that, with the emotional support of my family and the medical support of my oncologist and his team of nurses, I will not die. I try to give that belief to others when they are frightened by what is happening to me and the potential for my early demise. I use my mind to make my body eat even though it often doesn’t seem to want to eat. I use my mind to try to bring the calm which will allow me to sleep so that my body can harness and utilise whatever resources it has to fight the cancer. It’s a fight I intend to win and meditation will help me to do!