Last night (early this morning, actually, but who's really paying that close attention?) I wrote the following on Facebook:
"According to a statistic, 1 in 3 people alive now will get a form of cancer. 1 in 3! I never heard that before, and I would love nothing more than for that statistic to be wrong or, if right, change. However, if it is true that cancer is that prevalent in the world today (it has been said to be the number one killer of those under the age of 85) then it seems to me we need a new and different understanding of how the disease affects those affected by its appearance in their lives, and what it means to have to deal with it. The result would likely be a different relationship not only with the disease, and those affected by it, but also (and perhaps more importantly?) with ourselves. It is all too easy not to look at something that makes us uncomfortable, but if life experiences are teachers, and so many are affected by this disease, there would seem to be ample opportunity to learn, if we are willing to pay attention."
A friend of mine then commented that heart disease apparently is the number one killer of women. It made me stop and think for a minute. I don't usually like paying attention to the statistics that people come up with. The only reason I have started to pay attention at all is because I want to start doing talks on the topic, and sometimes they are a reference point that can get people thinking.
When my friend said what she did, it occurred to me that it doesn't necessarily matter where in the line up a "killer" is. It is still a killer. Ovarian cancer is responsible for many women's deaths, but not nearly as many as other types of cancers. But those are "just" numbers. (I wonder how many of those who determine the stats would ever want to know what the stats represent if they, or someone they loved, was ever in that situation.) It is the people behind the numbers that matter. Ask anyone who ever lost someone dear as a result of cancer - or any other type of disease - and I am sure for as much as they may have an awareness and concern for others affected, the one that is closest to home is going to be one too many.
I often talk about how important awareness is in any regard. Without awareness, most are walking around in the dark, thinking that they can really see what is around them. There is no judgment in this, as we all do this in one form or another at one time or another. The things in life that call our attention are what we tend to pay attention to and learn the most about, and we can't possibly know everything about everything.
So I guess what I am saying is that I think that creating an awareness of any type can be helpful, with a willing, open person. If there is something that you know then maybe it is something you can share with others to help them become aware of so that they may be less likely to have their own unaddressed issues.
In the end if someone is helped or
benefitted by what we share, it
doesn't really matter where it
falls on "The" list of what
others think is important.
It just matters that it's important
enough to be on our list.
I want to also highlight that I what I was really intending to highlight was the fact that for as prevalent as cancer seems to be, in conjunction with all of the concerns that come as a result, we might have an opportunity to do much better in our relationship to it.
And this, to me, is an interesting point. How often does what we say get lost because someone goes somewhere else with what we have said? The minute we start to label things is the minute we limit them, and give another a reason to dispute the "facts." Is it no wonder we sometimes have difficulty communicating or wind up in fights that seem to be unable to be resolved?
We lose track of what the core is. We lose track of the things that really matter, and we get caught up in the surface stuff that we treat as real and as important. In this case, it is not the numbers that are important, but rather the fact that there is a conversation at all to be had in the first place. We don't do things. or pay attention to things, until we have to. However, if the stat of 1 in 3 is anywhere close to being "right", the odds of having to pay attention to information about cancer and its effects for many will be pretty high, at least at some point in their lifetime. For that reason, what I have to say might be something some will want to pay attention to. At the same time, there will always be those who will likely think "that's not gonna be me" who won't care or pay attention or give any conversation any credence until it shows up in their experience, and even then may still not have the ability or willingness to alter what they believe.
What I have to say is more about me than it is about anyone else. I am not looking to be in a contest with anyone. What I am looking to do is share my experience in a way that is hopefully meaningful to someone who might be able to relate. If someone can't relate to what I am saying, there is little chance that my words will have much meaning. However, if what I say is said in a way that helps another to identify with what is said, then that is where I might have some effect. Before being diagnosed, words like mine would have had something of an effect, but would have likely not have had a real impact, given I had nothing to really latch on to that could relate.
I suspect many people are in that same place.
Maybe if we stop chasing after medical/disease stats, and start paying attention to who is - and what is happening - behind them, we can stop focusing about who is "winning," as the bigger picture at times can represent a greater loss. Maybe we can find a place to meet in the middle, or at least lay the groundwork to find our way to each other when the time is "right."
In the end, I hope you never have to experience the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and its repercussions, but if you do, I hope that you will be able to find the help and support that you need. In my opinion, that really is the only kind of win any of us need.