Monday, February 20, 2012

Take That

Every now and then I get in a kick when I start doing 20 push-ups on days when I don't run. I've been doing that on and off for years, just because I don't like to have days with zero exercise.  I haven't been on that kick for a couple months now but started again the other night, and when I finished, I said,  "Take that, cancer!"  Really. I didn't just think it. I said it. And I kinda smiled. Either I amused myself, or I liked the thought. 

Read anything that's written about cancer patients -- whether they are in treatment, remission or have died and you will always find what's best described as violent or war-like metaphors. Steve Jobs "lost his battle" against pancreatic cancer, for example. There's even been some debate at places like Dana-Farber's Communications Dept and elsewhere whether that constant reference to battling cancer, being strong, fighting valiantly, etc, does survivors a disservice. How the constant language cheapens the struggle. One interesting article talked about how it puts a burden on survivors -- an expectation for them to be braver, stronger, more stoic than they want to be.


I think the language evolves out of a need for people to take control. Patients put so much trust in their doctors and nurses. We ask questions. We have discussions. We make decisions. Maybe we make some behavioral modifications -- stop smoking, eat healthy food, exercise. But we're kidding ourselves if we think we're in control. I'm not just talking about cancer here. There are studies that show a link between exercise and a reduced risk of cancer. But as Stacy points out, I've been exercising and running my whole life.

No control.

So I keep running. And I'll continue to run - not because I have cancer and not in spite of the fact that I have cancer. It's just what I do and what I've done since I was eight. I'll have bad runs where I feel slow, and sluggish and tired.  And I'll have  good runs where I feel like I can run forever. And maybe once in a while, after those good runs, I'll say: Take that cancer.