Last week I sat back and realized that it was only two years ago when I’d normally be thinking of what to get my grandfather for his February birthday. He wasn’t a complicated man. He liked collecting DVD’s as a safety net for rainy days, loved anything and all things Ravens and even more loved the days when I’d sit next to him on the couch trading Newspapers, sipping Pepsi’s and shooting the breeze. He adored me and I admired him. Then one day, he told me over lunch that he was dying from cancer. I sat back in my chair and felt my throat begin to close. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t speak. I just wanted to put a face to cancer. How else could I look the imposter in the eyes to express my deep-rooted hate?
Hate is a heavy word. But in all honesty it seems as light as a feather when used to address what has become one of my worst enemies. Even my religious upbringing and diplomatic personality cannot control my urge to scream, “I hate cancer!” Right or wrong, I believe my attitude toward this unwelcomed, unwanted and at all times unwarranted disease is justified.
Maybe that’s my emotions talking. Maybe it’s a new reality that I’m forced to deal with. It seems as though with each season the disease called cancer travels further across the globe yet manages to remain so close to home; my home. And I am powerless because I cannot pinpoint where it’ll lay its head next. Cancer has no preferences; it isn’t racist, sexist or ageist.
Each time it hits close to home I manage to tune it out, ignoring the threat that this thing called cancer will take another loved one from me. I convince myself that the Almighty High will extend their days just in time for a world cure. While I’ve waited, I’ve wasted precious time. Time I should have been learning about the disease and supporting those I love. Time I should have been walking to raise funds or running errands for those I love. That time never seems as valuable until those I love run out of it.
At that very moment, my worst enemy chases me into a corner and forces me to stare it in the eye. It’s as real as my hate, but my hate isn’t stronger than its deadly grasp. According to worldcancercampaign.org, close to 11 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed worldwide and more than seven million people die yearly from the disease. I know and have lost some of them.
There’s nothing like watching a beautiful woman go bald before her time or a strong man bedridden. Cancer is a game changer. Cancer is a life changing disease. Cancer is like a weed that even after being uprooted, it manages to grow back and take over the entire garden. Cancer is disrespectful and unpredictable. It’s a shady element in the world we know. And I’ll never trust it.
I won’t be spending this birthday with my grandfather but I have decided what I’ll give him this year. I’ve decided to honor him and others by walking for cancer. It’s the least I can do.
Despite its significant presence, cancer will not always have the final word. It’s up to us to be proactive in detection, active in support and reactive to our losses in a way that produces cures.
Face your fears before they face you.