fighting it

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The metaphors most commonly used in relation to cancer concern war.  Cancer is a “battle” in which you have to “fight.” And when someone dies from cancer we say that they “lost their struggle against illness.”  Or having cancer is compared to a sports competition.  You must “win” against the disease; you must “beat” it; “加油, jiayou!”, say the Chinese to cancer patients just like they do when they cheer on their sports teams.  “Come on, try harder, you can do it!“

I never really understood what any of this meant.  If cancer is a war, it’s a war where the illness is an atomic bomb and all you have for your defense is a little plastic gun.  If it’s a sports competition, I’m Buster Keaton and the cancer is the big neighborhood bully who is going to beat you to a pulp.  Besides I’m not a fighter.  I’d rather give up right away.  Or rather, I’d run away.  Run so fast nothing could stop me.  Run until I find a hole where I can hide.

The truth is of course that as a cancer patient, you’re not a warrior nor a sportsman, you’re a lamb to the slaughter.  You’re meekly bowing your head, waiting for the final blow.  And there is no running away since no matter how fast you run, you always will be taking the illness with you.This is why the real struggle is not with the illness but with myself.  I have to fight againt my fear; fight against my instinct to cover my ears and scream; fight against my automatic flight mechanism.  I wish I was a tougher, or at least a wiser, guy; I wish I was closer to enlightenment.  No, I’m not half-way there yet.

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