I lost a friend to cancer last weekend. We kept in touch mainly through Facebook ever since my family moved away from Atlanta. She eventually moved to New York with her husband and son, but later they all returned to the A.
Facebook kept us seconds apart no matter where on the map we were.
She was young. Too young. Her family was stunned.
Unfortunately in her case, as with too many cases, the breast cancer was detected way too late. This past January, she shared an image of a black text box with oversized white block letters of two words that simply read “F&*# CANCER.” I graced the post with my approval in the form of a useless ‘like’ and moved on with my life.
I never asked her how she was doing. As with most of our relationships, I took hers for granted.
I never knew she had cancer. None of us did.
She suffered mostly in silence. Only a privileged few were aware of the battle she fought privately behind her bright smile. It was her choice. And now I only think of her husband, her son and her family who have to face tomorrow and every single day that will come after without their core.
It breaks my heart.
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And then, I think about the uncle my wife lost a few weeks ago to the disease. And my aunt we lost the same week after a long battle with cancer. And my stepfather who is losing his battle right at this very second. And my three aunts who have beaten this epidemic more times than honestly fair for them (after beating it once, you should be declared winner of the cancer contest once and for all). And there are millions more. Millions more.
The saddest thing about all of these stories is how common they are. There’s not one person reading these words who hasn’t been affected by cancer. Why is cancer’s story so prevalent? Why is the loss so common? Is it a question of if we will need to deal with it in our immediate family or rather a question of when?
Cancer is the real life boogey man—the same one my father assured me wasn’t real when I was a little boy. I tell my 4-year old the same thing. I tell him there’s no need to be afraid of the dark as long as he sleeps under our roof. Nothing can hurt him or his mother or myself. The words comfort him, and after some reassurances he always falls fast asleep. I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep my promise one day.
Cancer scares me, and I’m afraid—short of a few well placed dollars—I won’t be able to do anything about it. And that may in fact be the scariest part about it.
While you can’t control whether or not cancer will come, you can lower your risks of mortality if it does come knocking at your door. All of us should get regular check-ups; eat healthy, balanced diets; exercise regularly and stop smoking and other risky behaviors.
There are too many people counting on you…on us. Cancer has affected too many lives for us to be nonchalant. It’s the one thing we can do—be aware. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our families and loved ones. Don’t be selfish.
BMWK, are you and your family taking the risks of cancer seriously? What steps are you taking to lower your risks?