Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When You're Not Diagnosed With Cancer

Cancer. It is the dreaded "C" word growing increasingly prevalent in today's population. Chances are, you are aware of someone with a cancer diagnosis. Fact be known, it is probably multiple people. The odds of those someones being dear loved ones is rather high.

Cancer can go into remission. Cancer can be chronic, meaning forever. Cancer can take lives. When words like "cancer" and "chemo" are bounced around, they are all consuming. 

Because cancer ALWAYS signifies a premature death, correct? 

Cancer must be the sole diagnosis horrendous enough to inspire awareness, fundraisers, charity runs, and service for complete strangers or mere acquaintances. It has to be the only disease with symptoms worthy to engage entire community support, true? 

Perhaps not. 

When not diagnosed with cancer, it is certainly a celebratory cause. The "it is not cancer" statement said by the man in the fancy white coat pacifies the nerves of the entire waiting room. 

But can another diagnosis proceeding those words be just as troublesome? Don't get me wrong, cancer is a deplorable condition that has lead to many leaving this earth too soon. However, receiving another, usually chronic, diagnosis can be equally as distressing. 

When not diagnosed with cancer, suffering is minimized. In the case of invisible chronic illness, an outsider's point of view is different. To them, it cannot be possible to be fighting a lifelong and life threatening battle while maintaining a relatively healthy appearance because, well, "you look SO good!" 

When not diagnosed with cancer,  the body is still subjected to similar tests, medications, and symptoms as a cancer patient. But still, chronic illness patients are taken less seriously. The number of people who started to consider my condition real after resorting to cancer drugs for treatment is unbelievable.  

When not diagnosed with cancer, "friends" are fleeting. Support is often short lived. Condolences, prayers, good vibes, and positive juju are abundant, initially. After being ill for years though, they tend to fall to the wayside. People do not know how to respond to a lifetime sentenced to ill health. What should be said or done to someone whose health cannot be critical since they have been unwell for years on end? 

When not diagnosed with cancer, true friends and family reveal themselves. They are the people present during the entire journey, not solely for the early diagnosis stage. Chronic illness suffers are forever indebted to the ones present when life with others is no longer described as "in sickness and in health," but by "sick, sicker, and sickest."

When not diagnosed with cancer, hope is occasionally transient. The body is dependent on faulty genes, as chronic illness cases are often genetic in origin. The answer to the pain lies in the double helix of the DNA, which does not often express the possibility of complete remission. So, those with chronic illness persevere too. It teaches the lesson of perseverance on the days that the future appears to be an imminent black hole, hiding pain and former dreams in its endless abyss. 

And lastly, 

When not diagnosed with cancer, chronic illness patients fight also, while sometimes deficient in hope and faith. They prepare for battle with relief that the war does not begin with the dreaded "C, " but feeling scared anyways because life in a failing body is never easy, no matter the diagnosis.