This week my Great Aunt Betty was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to her liver, spinal cord, and brain. It became clear that she would not have much time left to live, shocking and hurting our family just accepting the loss of my Great Uncle Jim, Betty’s husband who died a few years ago. Cancer has spread to our family like so many other families in America and across the world, hurting everyone it touches.
Many people take for granted basic everyday things here in the United States because we are so well off. We don’t have to deal with famine, war, widespread poverty, or many other horrible things that affect other parts of our planet. This lack of tragedy causes us to go numb to real pain until we feel it affect our families directly like the victims of hurricanes these past few years. One thing that is perhaps the hardest to deal with is the pain that comes with seeing a loved one quickly fade away with no warning. This is what cancer causes.
The government projects that over 600,000 people will die of cancer in 2018, a significant number. Over 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year alone. These stats do not include the millions of family members that will suffer loss and pain that can paralyze a person for days. When I recieved pictures of my Great Uncle Jim’s funeral that I couldn’t attend while in Germany in 2016, I was stuck in bed the rest of the day, crying and remembering what I loved about him like riding in his convertible in the Summer. This is just one example of thousands of cases of people suffering and mourning, despite never having been diagnosed with the disease. These are the immeasurable statistics.
What’s maddening about cancer the most is the loss of control you feel you have. Treatments, medication, and rest can only do so much. If you catch it too late due to hard to see symptoms, it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to stop it. Even if you could and send it into remission, it takes months of hard chemotherapy and pain to do so, something that takes a toll in and of itself.
Diseases like cancer can strike at any time, a harsh reality millions of Americans will have to face each year. This is why you should love your friends and family as much as you can, during the week, at parties, holidays, even at school and work. What may seem like an insignificant gesture to you can make your friends and family day and create a memory that even cancer can’t kill.
These aren’t just cliche sayings and words, this is the reality for my family and I. When I first heard the news about Betty, I began to think about all the times she made me feel happy. Her coming to my graduation and giving me a gift that she didn’t have to give. Talking to me by the counter at her house last year, just catching up with my life. The so called insignificant things. When you see your family or friends or even your coworkers or neighbors these holidays, take a moment and just enjoy their company.
Maybe this is just therapy for my family and I to write this, but I truly believe in this message: always love people and cherish the time you spend with people you love. Death is hard to deal with, especially cancer. So maybe during these holidays and take a moment to appreciate how wonderful time with your loved ones is. Cancer is my reminder, it shouldn’t have to be yours.