Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lymphoma vs. Cancer

You may have noticed over the course of a year's worth of posting or so that I don't use the word cancer that often -- at least not by itself and not referring to myself. I'll opt for lymphoma instead. Or maybe cancer diagnosis. Or simply diagnosis.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, the word cancer carried with it such fear and power - it was the Voldemort of its time - the word that shall not be said. It was whispered; it was mouthed but it was often not uttered aloud. And when it was, it was monolithic - it was Cancer. Or even CANCER. Not HER2-positive breast cancer. Not small cell lung cancer. It was just cancer. Said once and not repeated again, for fear of... what? 

In some circles today, it's still avoided. It's the C-word, or it's said in hushed tones over kitchen tables on hot summer nights.

I don't think I say I have follicular lymphoma because of a burning desire to be factually accurate. I just don't like writing the word cancer. Sometimes I'll be typing along at a good clip and then I'll get to the point in the sentence where I should write the word "cancer" and my hands will pause, the cursor will stop moving, and I'll detour around the word. 

There's a funny scene from Monty Python's movie The Life of Brian, where an old man is being stoned to death for uttering the word, "Jehovah." As they detail the specifics of the man's heresy, he continues to say the word. Jumping around and dancing as he says it.

Sometimes that's how I feel about the word cancer: At times we bestow upon it such supreme power that we make the word stronger than it is; at other times, we realize it's just a word and we're a lot stronger than any word. Saying it will not make anything worse. So with me, everyone dance about and kick the dirt. Cancer, cancer, cancer.