Thursday, 29 September 2011

Brain Zebras and Relatives

 My middle name means, “warrior woman.” Lately, I talk about fighting this cancer & my friends, meaning to encourage me and console themselves, talk about me being a fighter.

And I am. A survivor, a fighter, generally speaking.

Strange then, that I don’t feel I’m fighting cancer. I have the oddest intuition that “fighting” is not what I need to do. Ask anyone in martial arts – you never meet force with force. It’s just a stupid tactic and it doesn’t work. And if someone is screaming at you, does screaming back deescalate the situation? Generally not, if you’ll forgive me answering my own question.

I can’t help thinking that every one of our defenses begins as a helper. You can’t sing a note in front of others because once, as child, you were happily singing and someone snapped, “sing properly.” To protect yourself from hurt, you stopped singing – and even though now you may be grown and may have a beautiful voice, those old defenses are still there and you remain silent.

On the physical level – consider autoimmune diseases: the immune system, the very system designed to protect you from all manner of ills begins to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissue.

Who is to say that cancer doesn’t start as the body’s way of defending itself?

I have a couple different images of my cancer.

The most recent is zebras. I have brain zebras. I refer to the following quote:
"Medical students are taught when hearing hoof beats, to think of horses, not zebras. Neuroendocrine tumours are rare and therefore are considered to be zebras." 
How does one picture fighting zebras? I mean, look at them, they’re beautiful and interesting. Admittedly they are not quite horses, but in terms of visualizing them as an enemy, it's pretty much a useless image.

So I fall back on my original visualization. The one that appeared almost full-blown & out of nowhere when I started thinking of the cancer in Mrs. Enid’s voice. 

My cancer is Auntie C., an enormous, gelatinous whale of an unappreciated relative who visits without notice and sprawls into my favorite chair. Auntie smells like unwashed laundry and cheap perfume. She has pale puffy skin and beady eyes.She stays for lunch and asks for it on a tray. Her bones, you know, they act up something awful. She expounds on subjects she knows nothing about, messes in everyone’s business and terrifies small children by trying to kiss them. She believes that she’s a generous and helpful soul and that the family cannot really do without her. 

I can’t say I love her. But I don’t hate her either. My job is just to make her go home without hurting her feelings too much.

So, no dragons or closet monsters for me. Just the struggle to get Auntie the hell out of my chair.


Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

You got me on the singing analogy. I now see my very own critical aunt sitting beside me when I sing; i will give her tea and cookies and send her back home. Thank you. Civility rocks.

Howpublic said...

That example is actually borrowed from the experience of a friend, although I'm absolutely certain that many of us have experience similar squashings that stayed for life.
You sing, Cyn!