As I get further and further into this thing we call life, I am constantly finding people diagnosed with some kind of cancer. I wonder if this observation is simply a reflection of our peers around us, who similarly, are getting older and succumbing to our slowly ailing bodies. Or is it something in our environment which over time unknowingly poisons us against a healthy lifestyle we strive for day-to-day. Alternatively, maybe it is our genetics that map out the road less travelled, thereby creating a destiny independent of where life might ordinarily take us. When I was diagnosed almost three years ago, I don’t think I knew a single person under or around 40 who was diagnosed with cancer. Since that time, I am faced with the realization that more and more young people are becoming diagnosed with cancer.
Regardless of age, there is a social brand associated with having cancer. It generalizes us into something I call the “default cancer group”. A group where all newly diagnosed cancer patients inadvertently find themselves. Perhaps I just stumbled on this younger group of cancer patients as a result of my diagnosis. Afterall, when you find yourself a part of a new group of people, you find a new system of information too. As part of this group, there is always someone who knows someone, a friend of a friend , well-meaning people that want to connect you with another person with similar circumstances, making it more apparent just how prevalent cancer really is in our community today. But aside from these indirect connections, through my own personal relationships, I am also stumbling upon people afflicted with some type of cancer. What is going on!
Getting older is an unpredictable thing. In our youth, we often look ahead trying to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead for us as we age. Without that handy crystal ball of ours, we are never really sure what our future health holds. In retrospect, I sometimes feel sad for the elderly. They are blessed with a long life but have to watch their loved ones pass on as they get older. It never really occurred to me about how this initial void instigates itself into our lives. Does it start out as sickness and then progress into something more over time? Is this how it was for my grandparents too? As for me, it just feels like a new wave of alarm as I earn my latest badge of courage, known as midlife.
Thankfully in this day and age, advances in science have allowed us to live longer and healthier lives. We can defy the odds that our ancestors before us were not so fortunate to overcome. On the flip side, it has also opened the gates of discovery and allowed for more diagnosis of cancer. Cancer that we didn’t know we had years ago before mammograms, MRI, and diagnostic blood tests were available. Today these tests enable us to more easily detect cancer at an earlier stage and more often too. Is cancer really more prevalent now or are we just getting better at identifying it?
Whatever the case may be, it remains unsettling to me how much I hear the word “cancer” today and how it is affecting those people around me. It pops up daily through phone conversations, local newspaper articles, and even Facebook, just to name a few. Globally, it has become an epidemic of blogs depicting life stories through reenactments of everyday struggles in the life of cancer. Consequently, making it even more apparent that cancer is creeping into our society more and more every day. Young or old, near or far, it affects us all.