I’m doing the race for life tonight. I’m quite excited; it will be my first proper 5k, at least the first one where I get to wear a number. Over the last year I have started running, and got to the point where I enjoy it. I’m painfully slow, but I can do it. Learning to run and competing in races has taught me not to compare myself with other people and its improved my mental and physical health. I like the fact that race for life will be women only, and that it will be at night.
What I don’t really like is the rhetoric that seems to accompany Cancer Research’s publicity for the race. Currently, their strategy seems to be to personify Cancer. ‘Let’s show Cancer who’s boss’, ‘Cancer doesn’t want you to give us money, so why not give us some money just to annoy Cancer.’Cancer has been saying nasty things about you behind your back so let’s go and stick a toothpick in Cancer’s eye’ and so on.
Ok, so I exaggerate somewhat, but it is indicative of their messaging. Cancer Research really want us to hate on cancer, and I presume they think it’s a good motivating tool: but I can’t help finding it off-putting.
Now, like most people I don’t like Cancer. In-fact, I just lost my amazing Grandma to the disease, a fact I am still devastated about (running has also helped with grief, I have found). Joyce wasn’t sick for very long, a water infection which didn’t clear lead to a month in hospital, a few weeks in Pontefract Hospice and that was it. She didn’t fight cancer, there was no battle to be had. I resent the fact that Cancer denied my Grandma at least 10 years of life she could have had (she was only 77). Despite this loss, I still can’t bring myself to hate cancer in the way Cancer Research seem to want me to.
Cancer is just the multiplication and mutation of cells. Cancer comes from within us; helped along by external factors, lifestyle and environmental causes, yes; but Cancer is fundamentally of us. Wanting to attack it in such a malicious way feels too much like wanting to attack part of ourselves. By wanting to defeat cancer, we are setting ourself up for an un-winnable battle. I mean, we all have to die of something right? Defeating cancer will not give the human race immortality I don’t think. Obviously, it is fantastic that people can and do regularly beat cancer, it would be brilliant if every-one could do that; but it’s a hard thing to imagine.
Cancer Research’s ‘battle’ rhetoric is frustrating for those of us for whom the experience of Cancer was never any kind of battle, just a short story of a body giving in. In my Grandma’s case, it would have been very unlikely for her to spot the cancer earlier on. There was a water infection a few months ago, and a couple of back-aches. Even had those warning signs lead to an earlier diagnosis, I don’t think the eventual outcome would have been all that different. It could even have been worse, Grandma was only once in unbearable pain and it was alleviated very quickly. Going through lots of invasive treatment only to face the same outcome could have been more painful and difficult.
Yes, I wish she hadn’t had cancer, yes I wish she could have recovered. I wish she was still here to read this blog post, of course I do. But even with all this I can’t hate Cancer. Joyce was very young in her outlook, she tweeted (yup) on her 76th birthday that she still felt 26 (the same age as I was at the time). Grandma would have hated to get old and frail or to lose her mental faculties, cancer enabled her to bow out before that ever had to happen. I wish it hadn’t, in so far that I wish no one I love had to die ever, but given that is unrealistic, not everything about my Grandma’s Cancer was bad.
When I run, it won’t be to hate on cancer, but to celebrate life and health while I have it. I will be running for my Grandma, and I’m sure she’d be happy that we were carrying on and doing things that made us feel better and more healthy.
Me and my Grandma, don’t be fooled by the shorts – I was a total sloth of a child.
When I found out that Grandma was dying, I went on the internet and read everything I could find about palliative care and death. At first I found this internet research comforting, then I realised that this was exactly what my Grandma had done when she found out that her Great Grandchild Elliette had Cystic Fibrosis. Joyce spent a lot of time reading about CF and tweeting at other families with the condition : which is why I set up this memorial page as it was something she cared about whilst she was alive. If you want to give some money you can find the link below, many thanks