Cancer: A Shark in the Water


It's not always smooth sailing with breast cancer.

Destiny. It seems we are drawn into it with little voice and choice in the matter. Things happen-- sometimes unpleasant things. But there is no scale that weighs our pain and suffering and says, “That’s enough.” I don’t hear any voice telling me “You’ve done well sir, so take a few years off for good behavior.”

Cancer is that way. It appears to have an objective to carry out, but I don’t believe that the purpose is simply to kill us. Cancer cells are the sharks of our physical selves, living to gobble up those cells—the healthy ones—that are misfits in the carcinoma clan. Cancer cells just want to survive, proliferate and take over.

We go to great lengths to find them and fish them out. But sometimes the quick ones slip through the net.

While most of us are trolling for cancer in hopes of removing it forever, the last thing we need or expect is for yet another disease or disorder to cloud the water of recovery. So when I was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia last week, just 22 months after my mastectomy, my first thought was about the bad timing of it. Fortunately, hernia surgery is one of the most common and safest medical procedures one can undergo, but still it would be nice to have a break from the operating table.

The second thought I had was how fortunate I am that it’s just a rip in my intestinal wall messing up my plans. After all, so many of my friends and acquaintances in the cancer arena are in and out of hospitals, heroically enduring tests and procedures day after day.

It’s not unusual for cancer survivors to feel that our physical bodies have somehow let us down, but is this true?

We all die of something someday. Is death a weakness or a flaw in life as we know it? Or is disease just another element in the remarkable process of living and dying, coming and going?

The idea that all sharks must constantly be swimming to stay alive by moving water and oxygen through their gills is a common myth. I worked for a year in the SEA LIFE aquarium in California so I know this to be untrue. And cancer works this way also. When it’s on the move we take notice, but sometimes it settles and sleeps and remains hidden for a long time. And like the shark, it has the capacity to reawaken with a voracious appetite.

This is the uncertainty that keeps us vigilant, holding one eye on the horizon, hoping to never spot that notorious dorsal fin of “Jaws” swimming our way.

We all long for a calm sea. So as the occasional storm surprises us on our journey, my wish for every cancer survivor is that we remain forever steady on our course with destiny, steadfast in our expedition through cancer, and always available to the possibility of smooth sailing once again. .

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