A couple of days ago, the Lance Armstrong Foundation put out a video: “What Would You Say to Cancer, Given the Chance?”
I’ve watched this a couple times now. It’s a powerful video. It wasn’t until afterward, though, that it occurred to me: the premise of the video — talking to cancer as if it were a person — should feel contrived and odd to me.
But it doesn’t.
Because — probably like a lot of people who’ve been affected — cancer doesn’t feel like a disease to me. It feels a lot more calculating and sinister than that. And to tell the truth, I’ve had internal monologues not too different from what the people in this video were saying, where I told cancer what I think of it.
Today I’m going to try to write some of these things down.
What I Would Say to Cancer
I think I would start by trying to make cancer realize how badly it’s hurt Susan, has hurt our children, and has hurt me. It started by taking one of Susan’s breasts, then went on to take her energy, and then one of her hips, then attacked her ability to walk, breathe, and even think. And while the cancer is quiet for now, we know it’s far from finished.
“Why would you want to do that?” I would like to ask. “Why would you attack someone like Susan? She hasn’t ever done anything to invite you in. She isn’t old. Her kids need her. I need her. Why are you doing this?”
Just because I know the question doesn’t have a good answer doesn’t mean I can’t ask it.
On that LiveStrong video, a lot of the people wanted to challenge cancer to a fight. I have to admit that this part of the video scared me. We’ve already tried fighting. If I could talk to cancer, I would really like to ask for a truce. A cease-fire.
I’d be willing to trade or negotiate. If I could beg for that truce, in fact, I would. “You’ve proven your point. If we agree that you’re the winner, will you stop now? Or if you still want something else, can you take it from me instead?” I honestly can’t think of many limits of what I’d trade.
I would want to tell cancer that it has changed me. I’ve always prided myself on my sense of humor and the ability to find absurdity everywhere. But cancer has made it hard for me to be funny. In fact, I think I’d tell it, every time I succeed in being funny, cancer should know I’ve just given it the finger. Shown it that it can’t change me entirely: I am still me.
I’d tell cancer that it’s not just affecting the people it attacks. I’d tell it that our kids are hurting too. Susan hates not being able to do everything she’s always done for them, and I am not picking up all the slack that needs picking up. I worry every day that I am not a good enough father to take care of our kids the way they deserve.
I would ask cancer some questions. “Why are you so mean? Why are you so relentless? Why are you so sneaky? Why are you so arbitrary?” I’d tell cancer that it’s not just a villain, it’s a caricature of a villain.
I’d tell cancer that it’s gone too far. It’s attacked my wife, my father, my sister, my grandma, my father’s wife, and my mother’s husband. It’s attacked friends and people I’ve never met in the real world, but still care about.
So I guess I’d tell cancer it’s changed me in one other way: it’s given me a focus and intensity that I’ve never had before. I’m not a fighter, but in this case I am making an exception.
I’ve got a lot of friends, and we’re working together to help fight it. Sure, it’s just a little drop in the bucket, but there are a lot of us. And we’re all going to put our drops in the bucket. And someday that bucket will be full, and we will have beaten you, cancer. And that’s a good reason to do this.
Because I can’t bear the thought of my kids having to someday face cancer themselves.
Please use today’s comments section for what you would say to cancer.
PS: If you want to join Team Fatty for the 2009 LiveStrong Challenge, I’d love to have you. Just go to one of our team pages for Austin, Seattle, San Jose or Philadelphia and sign up. We’ve raised more money than any other team this year, but it’s really just a start. I’d love to have your help.
PPS: Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered a Team Fatty jersey or bundle last week. By doing this, you helped Team Fatty raise more than $10,000 in the fight.