When I lived in Houston, Texas, I was friends with several women who were nurses at a world renowned cancer treatment center. They were very bright and cheerful people. But it dawned on me that they didn’t talk about work – at all. I asked one of them about it. She said “So many of my patients die, and we know that will happen when they come in. I just don’t allow myself to think about it.” So here was a health care professional who dealt with cancer on a daily basis, and she just didn’t talk about it.
I had a friend who was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He went through the treatments for it – radiation and chemo – and it went into remission. 20 years later I realized that he had never said another word about it. He was like the World War Two veteran who never talked about being in combat. It was very odd.
I couldn’t think of how to write about cancer because, as I told one person, “It hasn’t affected my world that closely, and I don’t know how I can connect to the topic.”
But was that true?
I remember sitting in that same world famous cancer treatment center when the doctor told my sister that she had a very aggressive form of cancer, and that he recommended a second round of very robust chemotherapy. I saw the fear in her eyes – the first round of chemo had devastated her physically and emotionally. She thought about it for a week, then declined further treatment. It was her decision. She died two months later.
As I reflect, our family has never talked about it.
There’s certainly a pattern here.
Watch Josh Groban as he interrupts a busy train station to deliver an important message about the American Cancer Society and cancer survivorship.