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Classic post: Cancer

By Jana
This post first ran on March 6, 2006.

On my first-ever website, this was my bio:
“I have lost my right leg, my left earlobe, and my father to cancer. My favorite color is red.”

I felt, back then, that detailing these losses told most of the story of my life. Cancer had taken so much from me.

Now I’ve lost much more to cancer—not from my own body or from the bodies of my immediate family, but from the many friends I’ve known in the ensuing years who have lost parts to this disease or who have died from cancer. There’s something about being a cancer survivor that connects me to others who are struggling with cancer. When acquaintances are diagnosed, they often come to me. Sometimes it’s because I’ve been there and I can share their experiences in the ways that no one else can. Sometimes it’s for insider knowledge—to help them to strategize a treatment. Sometimes it’s to grieve…to talk about what it’s like to lose a part of yourself and go on being “you.”

I don’t really remember anymore what life was like before my cancer. It’s been over 20 years now and my body feels right just the way it is—missing parts and all. Though I can’t say that I’m ‘grateful’ for the experiences that have come my way because of having had this disease, I am happy that it has helped me to reach out to so many people. There is something about being a cancer survivor that allows me to cross bridges of age, gender, race, and to be friends with people of all kinds. I love that part of my life. It feels good.

In every ward that I’ve lived in there are families who are in some stage of a cancer experience. It is a disease that has touched almost every family that I know. I’ll bet that you and everyone reading this post has been impacted by cancer somehow. We probably all have our stories of family members or good friends who have suffered with this disease. It’s odd how cancer ties communities of people together through a network of experience and loss. But it’s also the one gift that can come from such grief.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com

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  1. Jessawhy says:

    I think this is true with loss and grief in general.
    On Monday, one of my very good friends lost her one-year-old son to a household accident while she was out of town. I’ve been mourning all week, and cried my way through the viewing tonight. I don’t know how I’ll make it through the funeral. This post reminds me that out of completely horrible events, some good can come. In the future, my friend may be able to help other mothers who lose their children. I’m just praying for her to get through the next few days and weeks, as I know her heart is broken right now.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Alisa says:

    The community feeling that can come from cancer is amazing. That was one of the revealed blessings during my father’s serious nine-month bout (and he survived): people opened up, showed their faith (whatever denomination it was), and really extended their love. I couldn’t believe how many of my friends and coworkers remembered, week after week, to ask me about my dad.

  3. labornurse says:

    I really appreciate your thoughts and feel your pain. I went through chemo and radiation among for breast cancer about a year or so ago and it was a long and difficult experience. I’m thankful that my husband stood by me and did everything he could to take care of me and our five year old son, often working nights and coming home to watch our son with little to no sleep for days. He also has had to deal with his fair share of dealing with the disease, having lost an uncle to a large brain tumor, another uncle to pancreatic cancer, a grand father to cancer last year, and an another uncle to aids. It can be a very difficult thing to deal with. But to see how you have handled it makes me smile. Keep your head up always and stay strong. God bless,

    Meredith – RNC

  4. Dora says:

    I feel like I’ve generally seen pediatric cancer patients in one of two stages of their illness.

    Firstly, in the PICU, we see patient who have just come from a biopsy or resection. Patients and their families are generally upbeat and hopeful that what the surgeons did was enough. When I have patients that are late teens, I sometimes tell them about my good friend Jana and her triumphs in life.

    And then there are the other patients. The ones who come to us because they have gotten critically ill during the course of their treatment, and we battle to save their lives. Sometimes we are successful. Sometimes we are not. Sometimes the best comfort we can give is a little time for the patient and/or their family to come to terms with the inevitable.

    These are just two of the myriad faces of cancer that I see on a regular basis. However, I’m so glad that there are other faces in between, and survivors who are available to support and nurture others who are dealing with such a fearful burden.

    My personal life is not untouched by cancer. And while my loved one has been cancer free for almost two decades, there is always the possibility that it will reappear. And so we are watchful …

  5. LCM says:

    I can’t remember either, first when I had kidney cancer as a child and now as my little girl battles lymphoma. It was amazing to walk the survivor lap at my first Relay for Life last year with my little girl wearing matching survivor shirts. Even now when she goes out wearing her shirt, I watch adults read it, look twice at her and her little chemo curls, and stand a little straighter and smile.

  6. Anonym says:

    hej med dig

  7. My dad passed away four years ago with cancer. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. A year and a half ago my cousin’s 10 year old daughter was diagnosed with a bone cancer…she is cancer free today. One week ago today my uncle, OK Harris a well known artist, passed away with Multiple Myeloma. I know a lot of people who have died and also survived cancer. I tell my friends and family members that I believe that we go through these things so we can help/support others.

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