Love and Cancer

Fans of the rock group My Chemical Romance know what can be deeply moving and scary about loving someone with Cancer. Streetlight Manifesto’s As the Footsteps Die Out Forever Ever made me cry. Garage Band Nirvana covered the issue in Heart-Shaped Box. Tumblr has a list of great songs and the reasons behind them when known.

I turned up a long long long list of movies about cancer, especially romance movies. One of my favorites is an Oscar-nominated short called Wish 142.

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And there are many, many books about cancer, one way or another. The list of romance novels about cancer on Goodreads includes other illnesses,

Yes, the last Sunday of every month, I discuss health issues. No, I don’t have cancer. But I read a romance novel called The Boomerang Bride and I thought about this subject a lot. Fiona Lowe is a best-selling author in Australia and soon should be in other English speaking markets. I’m not going to give away too much of the plot, but if you think you want to read this, read it first. This blog should still be here.

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Here’s the thing. The person who gets breast cancer isn’t the main character. She’s a very important secondary. She’s very well endowed in the ta-tas before the surgery. Once those are taken away, she becomes convinced her sexual life is over and no relationships will occur. She doesn’t even give anyone a chance to prove her wrong.

I love how this subplot is handled and the grace and respect with which the character’s changes are handled. And why not? Why don’t we treat sick people better? All humans get sick at one time or another. Do you want to be treated like scum when you have a cold? No, it’s hard enough to focus on getting well as it is. So how much harder is it to recover from cancer if people treat you like you are contagious?

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I clearly remember the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Many people had all sorts of crazy ideas about how you could contract the illness. I worked in an office that had just held a potluck the week before I started. A young man who had made cookies turned out to have Hepatitis. Everyone was warned to get checked out if they ate the cookies. You would have thought they had been contaminated with AIDS, TB, and smallpox. The mind is a terrible thing.

Before you proclaim that some cancers are contagious, let me point out that only non-primates, namely dogs and Tasmanian devils, can catch cancer through sex or biting. We’re good.

Feeling isolated and alone while one fights for one’s life can actually weaken your immune system. Really, it’s not a coincidence that visiting the sick is a blessing on the visitor: Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Bahai, Wiccan. (As with many of the religions listed here, Wiccans will come with everything you need to get better. It’s the Way.)

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I’m sure I could continue to list articles and blogs. Instead, because the coffee shop is about to close, I will get to my point. My point is that we as a race need to treat sick people like precious items given into our care. A visit from a friend might give the sick person a chance to laugh and smile and heal more than if no one visited.

Each of us as individuals might not be able to influence very many other people. But as writers, we can make sure our stories, whenever possible, reflect the belief that love will conquer much. As we grow into mass market successful authors, we can take pride in the character with no hair and maybe a loss that can’t be seen, such as endometriosis creates, who learned she was not alone. And wouldn’t it be awesome if she met someone who recovered from testicular cancer?

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Please note that many types of cancer can be removed completely if the malignancy is found early. Take the time, do the regular self-exams that can find a lump before it gets crazy. Both men and women can get breast cancer. If you are 50 years old or older, get a Colonoscopy. This won’t be the most fun thing you can do, but it could save your life.

Also, don’t wait to consult a doctor about an unusual pain or excess stomach acid. Be cautious and be proactive. The cure is at hand, but the work to be done is stultifying.

Here’s wishing you many years of love and health. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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