Life. A wondrous thing. Life is something so complex and vital that only the word itself can hope to explain it because any other words try to make it something mundane, something describable. Life.
Yet, it’s also something so utterly painful, challenging and filled with sorrow. With life comes the inevitable counterpart: death. Death is the black of a dreamless sleep, that oblivious state which we enter and depart with no memory of what happens between. It terrifies, it soothes, it obscures, it gives perspective. If life is the vitality, then death is the reason to embrace that vitality.
Sitting, surrounded by life, death seems so utterly distant, so far from the comprehension and reality of Sixth Form life. Surely it’s all a lie, it doesn’t truly exist. Watching boys crowd a window to watch the unremarkable, hearing the girl to my left giggle in response to the lame joke of the guy she clearly likes, I’m left wondering one thing: how can this all just end?
For some, of course, it doesn’t. Death is the beginning of a second incarnation, or the beginning of the life after this one. Perhaps we are returning to a greater entity, or perhaps we are becoming something else, something other. The only thing that is certain is that you, upon death, are lost to this world and everyone in it.
Sat in a hospital, watching as the man I love, the man who has always been there for me, cringes and groans as new stitches pull and the sheer fatigue presses down on him, makes me think of all this: of an end. It’s not until you hear words like ‘accident’ or ‘surgery’ or ‘heart attack’, that the vitality of life truly takes on a perspective that I truly wish we were all born with. For me, in that chair, watching my father in pain, hearing the beep of the infernal monitors, it was another word that had me pondering the finality of things and the beauty of the blip of life: Cancer.
Cancer is a word that shatters, a word that tears and a word that exists in an unbreakable union with sorrow. It runs around in your head, filtering into every thought, into every movement and never lets you alone. Perhaps the true evil of cancer is its malignant traits in both the diagnosed and the loved ones around them.
My father has cancer. Bowel cancer to be precise. His life is a cycle of chemo and injections and you know what? We’re all right. We were lucky. The tumour was caught before it had progressed too far and the diagnosis was good: the outlook looked positive. He hasn’t lost his hair (what he has left of it anyway), he is still able to move around without much fuss and is still a pain in my ass. I wouldn’t change his annoying, irritating habits for the world.
Illness, and the sudden confrontation with death changes you, it forces you to recognise the fleeting reality of life.
When I was younger and he was being infuriating (regardless of whether he was in the right or not) I would mutter under my breath cursing him, wishing he would just disappear. In anger, you say awful things. As I got older, I would still mutter, wishing he would just stay at work or that I could stay at school. We both had short tempers and we both tried each other's patience. Since the diagnosis, not even for a second have I wished any member of my family out of my life, temporary or otherwise. Life is a wonderful thing that induces such anger at times that we lose sight of what everything means to us. Growing up, I lost sight of the importance of my family; they were the first to feel my anger and the last to be forgiven. It may sound awful, but if the point of this article is a re-evaluation of what the word cancer does, honesty is the best policy.
Cancer is a scary word. We all know it kills, we all know it destroys. We have seen the people who have lost their hair, the people at the end with no medical cure in sight. Cancer is an awful thing, and yet I struggle to define it anymore. Having lost my grandfather to the disease, I had always seen it as an awful thing, something that is simply destructive. Yet, here I am, finding cancer at the source of my whole revaluation on the beauty of life and love.
Cancer is a word. It can be scary, it can be deadly, it can be sorrowful. Cancer is a word. It can be happy, it can be cured, it can be healing. Cancer is part of life. Life is something wondrous and vibrant. While you have cancer, you are still alive. The key is to ensuring you never lose sight of that fact, no matter how hard it gets. Cancer is the curse of the living. Thus make sure you live your life regardless.