Trying to connect the dots

The “C” word is waving its hands and sticking out its tongue out at me no matter which way I turn this week.

You know the “C” word. It’s that word people use when discussing mortality: “She’s wasn’t feeling well. She saw a doctor. They’ve confirmed it. She has c—–, you know.”

I always feel compelled to ask, “What kind of c—–?”

Why do I care? Why does it matter? When someone is using the “C” word, we’re not talking about basal-cell carcinoma, but if we are, that kind of c—– is invariably followed by “but it’s just carcinoma. A little in-office surgery, and she’ll be good as new.”

No, usually when the “C” word comes up in conversation, it’s invariably followed by a discussion of radiation and chemotherapy and sometimes even wilder treatments like stem cell therapy or bone marrow replacement.

Talking about the “C” word — especially talking with someone who is undergoing treatment for the “C” word — is fraught with landmines. You know they’re thinking about their mortality because the “C” word is dangerous stuff that kills people, but we feel like we shouldn’t discuss that because it might be unlucky. So we talk about the treatment and sometimes we share hopeful stories of survival, which are probably rude because someone else’s success doesn’t necessarily translate to another’s.

Three people in my life are wrestling not just with talking about the “C” word but actually in armed combat with it (please don’t mistake my complaints here about discussing the “C” word as assuming that I think I have any problems when compared to someone who actually has the “C” word — my problems are pesky nothings, I get that).

I asked my Beloved what he thought the universe was trying to tell me by surrounding me with people who have the “C” word. His answer was less than insightful, but the very act of asking him made me turn this question on its head. Maybe the universe isn’t sending me a warning. Maybe the universe is showing me survivors.

These people — these friends and acquaintances — they’re not automatically dead because they have cancer. Cancer in one was caught very early, another woman has been battling cancer for 24 years, another lady is undergoing a very high-tech treatment. Maybe all these people are valiant warriors who will ultimately vanquish the “C” word.

Of course, we’ll all fall victim to Mortality eventually, but maybe these courageous souls will win the “C” battle first. Or maybe just fighting c—– illumines one’s courage and tenacity and life force. So maybe the message the universe is trying to get across is one of hope and persistence and graciousness.

Rather than avoid the “C” word, that’s the kaleidoscope of hope I’m going to use to see it with right now, standing in front of me waving its hands and sticking out its tongue. I’m sticking out my tongue right back.


2 responses to “Trying to connect the dots

  1. The C-word is kind of like He-who-must-not-be-named.

    “Lucius Malfoy: Mr. Potter! Lucius Malfoy. We meet at last. Forgive me, your scar is legend. As, of course, is the wizard who gave it to you.
    Harry: Voldemort killed my parents. He was nothing more than a murderer.
    Lucius Malfoy: You must be very brave to mention his name. Or very foolish.
    Hermione: Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.”

    My friend’s wife, though… She finds out next week whether the lump in her breast is just fatty tissue, or if it’s the c-word. And that’s very scary indeed.

    • Wow, this is a great quote, Megs (though I’m a book lover, I’ll confess I’ve never read J.K. Rowlings’ best known works). Thanks for sharing it here. I’ll wish good things for your friend’s wife, however we refer to her ailment.

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