Children can be more resilient and creative than adults think or maybe even the child herself. When my dad had cancer it was devastating. I was almost 10 years old when the first cancer episode happened – Daddy was diagnosed with cancer in one of his lungs. An operation to remove half the lung was supposed to stop the cancer.
It did in the lung. Two years later it had spread to his brain. He had horrible continuous headaches and was constantly vomiting. In those days (early 1960s) the only other cancer “treatment” was burn, i.e., radiation. And so my Dad back in the hospital had radiation on his brain. He wasn’t expected to live. Mom and I grew closer and one of her older sisters came to stay to “help” us out. She meant well, but wasn’t the best help to be around. However, after some weeks the radiation seemed to work and Daddy returned home. My aunt also returned to her home. Now Mom and I had to get used to Daddy being back home and back to work and get back into the routine.
It was then that I got the idea to teach Mom to play the piano. But I never connected it to dealing with Dad and his cancer until a few years ago. So I wrote a story about this called “Don’t Look Down”. After rewriting and rewriting and after a few rejections from submitting it and more rewriting and rewriting, I submitted it again last year to The Smart Set, an online only magazine published by Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was published January 17, 2019 (and for writers reading this post, yes I did get paid. The copyright also now reverts to me at this time, as long as I state where it was first published and when, which I just did).
The story begins like this:
“Don’t Look Down
Coping and communicating through music
There we sat, Mom and I, side by side on the piano bench. A mirror on the panel above the keyboard reflected our fingers, perched to perform. Deadly piano-playing duo? Not quite. You see, I had decided to teach Mom to play the piano. She was in her mid-50s; I was 13.
Perhaps a grade eight history-teaching project had infected me with the teaching bug. More likely it was connected to Dad’s second bout with cancer. At the hospital, the radiation had zapped his tumor. Now he was back home and had returned to work, but Mom and I were left with the aftermath of his life/death ordeal. We needed a diversion to keep us sane in this sudden change to supposedly safe routine. Besides, my music credentials were impeccable — five years of learning Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin on our pink Roxatone-coated piano.”
When you were a child did you use your creativity to cope with a horrific experience?
Still have the piano today. It really is pink.
Only Child Writes
Only Child thinking about cancer and its causes and consequence.
Cancer was the big concern yesterday. I was back in Aurora, Ontario to visit an old friend and read from my book Beyond the Tripping Point at the local library. The old friend and one of the other authors reading both have cancer. Which got me thinking.
It’s been almost 50 years since my dad died of brain cancer and we’re still trying to get the cure? Except for the long long time and some of the concoctions for treatment that come up, I do have respect for the researchers for at least keeping on digging for the cure.
My worry here is the treatments that are being used. In Dad’s time it was either slice or burn or both. (He had the latter only; it helped the first time, but the cancer just spread to another area of the brain, they couldn’t do anything, so he had what we now call palliative care).
One of the two people I saw yesterday had outlined her treatment plan for breast cancer in an email. It made me feel ill just to read it – that she would have to go through all that to maybe get better.
The other one has terminal cancer from what I can gather. She is on chemo – and has been for the past couple of years. Originally the high-dosed chemo made her so sick she was considering just dropping it and spending the rest of her days as is with her family. But the dosage was changed and the side effects aren’t so bad. Eventually the chemo will not help.
It seems like the “cure” is worse than the disease. And it is not always a cure. Who gets through the cancer into remission and who doesn’t seems to be a crap game. Sure, some of the chemo, surgery and radiation works. Some people who choose no medical intervention of the “regular kind” get through it. Same for some who choose modified treatment despite being told they should be more radical. Some try alternative treatment (either on its own or with regular medical). Some who are hopeful about getting better, do; some don’t. Some who aren’t hopeful don’t make it and some do. Ditto those who are spiritual and those who aren’t. Attitude doesn’t seem to matter.
Then there is the question – with all those odds should they go through the treatment that will drag them through hell physically and emotionally, for a bit more time with their family and friends? Or should they just let it be and spend their time with their families and friends?
One exception here – some surgeries can cure some cancers (but not all). If the prognosis for surgery as a cure is very high, then maybe go with it.
It’s the chemo and/or radiation afterwards that I question.
Like my book’s title, we seem to be beyond the tripping point with cancer. I don’t know what the answer is but I have a few suggestions (besides the obvious – find a cure NOW).
- Focus more on treatment that isn’t so drastic, so painful, and so debilitating. Did you know if you get radiation treatment you can’t go out in the hot summer sun without covering up? I know, I know – we should be more careful here because of the UV rays and skin cancer potential. But those who get “burned” don’t get radiation just for skin cancer.
- Focus on more natural treatment.
- Try to work more at the prevention end (research, getting the word out, and the rest of us – individuals, corporations and government – doing more about the environmental “polluters”).
- The so-called average person can also do more about improving their lives using information already available. We’ve come some way with banning pesticides, the cfc elimination from refrigerators, etc., and the publicity on smoking causing cancer.
- Something has to be done about too many cars spewing out toxins – they don’t just cause asthma attacks, but they cause cancer. See the Studies section in this Wikipedia article on Motor Vehicle Emissions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_emissions#Health_Studies From there link to the studies. And Google for more studies.These are just the tip of the smogberg.
- More responsibility in automobile ads. Instead of just focusing on the car’s features and “low” price, how about some caveats? This is done with alcohol in relation to drunk driving.
- Smokers need to quit and the younger generation shouldn’t start smoking. However, I don’t think they are getting the message and that might be because it isn’t coming at them as relevant.
- Pay more attention to our diet. There is a lot of media attention to obesity and diet and diabetes and diet. All very well. How about some big publicity about cancer and diet? And the food manufacturers have to get in the act here, too, to help.
Maybe I’m being naive but when the treatment is worse than the cure; when cure as a result is a crap shoot, and when even the cancer instigators aren’t consistent (i.e., some who eat or inhale something cancerous don’t get cancer; and some who live healthy lives do get cancer, well…
Something is sure screwed up here.
It’s nearly 50 years since my dad died of brain cancer. Have we really come a long way since then?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes
And I have no clue why my spacing disappeared when I save the draft of this post.