A giant hand unravels a woman who tugs against it

Cancer Takes and Takes and Takes... Everything

I often think about weird things when I am drifting off instead of working. Things like “How does Superman shave?” and “Do dragons’ birthday cakes have candles they light instead of blow out?” and lately “What if diseases had marketing slogans?” That last one got me thinking and I finally came up with the perfect slogan for lymphoma but really, cancer in general. It would be, “Cancer – the disease that keeps on giving, by which I mean taking.”

Taking, taking, taking

Cancer takes a lot from you, there is no doubt about that. I think anyone who has had the Big C, whether it’s on the less serious side or the more serious side, knows that cancer takes a lot from you. I mean, if you get a terminal diagnosis cancer can literally take the most important thing in the world from you – your life, but even if it doesn’t kill you it takes so much that it’s kind of a little added bonus that no one tells you about. It’s like, “Oh well, not only do you have to suffer through pain and humiliation, but you’ll also lose almost everything in your life and even things you forgot you had.” Oh, great.

I’m not even talking the physical things that cancer takes, although there are many. There’s your energy, that’s one of the first thing cancer takes from you and especially chemo.

Gives pain in return

There’s also pain – some of the most excruciating and enduring pain I’ve ever felt, actually. My cancer was so painful that I was surprised. Did you ever have that level of pain? Pain so bad that you were shocked that a body could even feel that much pain? I mean you are almost impressed like, “Well….  hat’s off to you, cancer. You aren’t screwing around.”

Stretch marks due to medicine, nausea due to chemo, the hair loss in places that you didn’t even realize you had hair, much less hair to lose, and the legion of skin issues that seem to go hand in hand with cancer and chemo. Yes, besides all of that, cancer still take a lot.

Takes away confidence, peace of mind, motivation. Gives anxiety

First there’s your confidence. I think that’s one of the first victims of cancer. When you hear that word come out of the doctor’s mouth it completely shatters all of your confidence in life, in living, and in the world in general, and you literally forget which way is up for a few seconds. Next, cancer takes your peace of mind, and that’s a big one.

Anxiety, fear, apprehension – these are all by-products of cancer and overnight you can change from the most confident and fearless person in the world into a fearful cancer patient, dreading what might come next and anxiety-ridden every time you await blood tests or PET scan results.

Finally, cancer saps your motivation and I’m not talking about the energy drain of fatigue. I mean cancer literally robs you of any desire to do anything but sit and worry about your cancer. It looms so large in your mind that it just empties all desire you have to do anything besides survive cancer as best you can. It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But that’s just the mental.. there’s still more.

Impacts on relationships

Socially, cancer can take just as much. First, there’s the danger of losing a significant other in whatever relationships you are currently in – dating, casually hanging out, engaged, heck, even marriage isn’t safe from cancer. I can attest to that one personally. While I was in the hospital for three months with cancer my now ex-wife was plotting her exit with person unknown she met on the Internet, which I found out later is so much more ridiculously common than it should be because…. people.

Next, cancer is probably the easiest way to kill a friendship – even the ones you though were solid. I can’t tell you how many people who I thought would step up and be there for me ended up disappearing like smoke in the wind. People who were some of the kindest, most caring, and attentive individuals I had ever met, or so I thought, acted like I had been deemed off-limits by royal decree and they darest not anger our mercurial sovereign for fear of losing their heads on the guillotine.

Finally, the biggest thing cancer takes is also the thing that’s the hardest to replace – time. Cancer is a huge time thief. Even if you survive it beat it in the end, it still steals years of your life, many times during your prime of life, and there is just no way to get that time back. It’s the one commodity that they aren’t making any more of and cancer frivolously wastes it in the same way your dad thought you were wasting electricity when you put the AC on at any temperature below 80f.

Cancer takes a lot and it’s something people don’t talk about enough. We speak of the “new normal” after diagnosis, but you only need to find that “new normal” because of all the things that the big C takes from you. It’s ok to stop, grieve, and miss your old life, because it is exactly that – a grievous loss. Talk soon.

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