Monday, February 27, 2012

Cancer isn't cancer isn't cancer

One of the most surprising things I've learned over the past year and a half is that the phrase "having cancer" can mean so many different things.

I've met cancer patients who have a 100% chance of beating their cancer. I've met people who don't have long to live. I've met people who have relatively unknown cancers that will almost certainly kill them, but nobody knows when. And I've met so many folks in between.

This has been one of the weirdest parts of encountering other young cancer patients. We all want to make common, but everyone's treatments are so different; some of us will lose body parts and some won't, some will have no trouble with radiation and some will be permanently scarred, some will escape chemotherapy and some will have chemo sessions that last for a week. With breast cancer alone, I've met patients who are 100% curable and who are terminal, who lost two breasts or one or none. All of that considered, it's pretty remarkable that we do such a good job of supporting each other as much as we do, when we've had such different experiences.

I've found that cancers are like pokemon. There are a zillion kinds, they have dumb names and they've got incredibly varied attributes (and you can't catch them all? Er, nevermind).

While all this variety has made my own experience dizzying, it's also sharpened my ability to be media savvy. Every time I read about a famous person who announces that they have cancer, I know how many things that could mean. Cancer isn't cancer isn't cancer. Each person's experience is unique, even if there are (luckily) enough common threads so that we get to joke together, hug each other, and carry each other through.

I kinda wish my Pokemon wasn't pink, though.