Saturday 29 August 2020

Cancer is a human experience, not a battle won or lost

In the great spirit of man
I did not know much about Chadwick Boseman or the body of work he had done. In fact, when Black Panther was a box office hit, I was still thinking of other representative films as Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight.
His passing at 43 after suffering stages of colon cancer diagnosed from 2016 during which he exhibited amazing acting prowess in seminal films is not only commendable but a show of stoicism and human spirit under great life-threatening affliction and infirmity. In the great spirit of man are such fortitude and immeasurable strength.
Cancer is not a battle
When I had Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a form of skin cancer as a result of HIV complications in 2009, I was 43, each time I read of people dying from cancer I find it difficult to appreciate the narrative of losing the battle to cancer.
As we live with it and sometimes live through it, it is rarely a battle, we are not at war, that some of us have survived it is one of great providence with many other factors of medicine, medical care, probably good fortune and even state of mind, but I did not cross swords with cancer and leave it vanquished.
We are given stories to tell
I will not pretend to speak for others who have survived cancer as I have, but what I know was at diagnosis, I was given 5 weeks to live, if my physiology did not respond to the treatment favourably. The consultant, however, was confident that if I did respond well, it would be fine. In just 5 weeks, I will mark the 11th year of my first session of chemotherapy.
Cancer is a scourge on humanity, maybe even a terror and terrorist as it ravages our bodies and we are left at the mercies of many things outside our control except for our human spirit that remains a force of life until our bodies give in to find eternal rest.
For me, I have been given a story and the way I tell it is, cancer happens, it is part of life, some of us live it to the end and others come through it, but until we are gone, we are still here, to some a hope, to others a light, that it does not have to end with just that.
All experiences are gifts to medicine
Any death from cancer reveals our vulnerability even more, to such a young man, there are no easy answers but the fond memories and tributes we can offer in recognition of his life along with the support and sympathy we can offer his survivors.
In everyone’s experience is also some new knowledge for medicine to give us all new hopes for survival. That is what gave my consultant confidence at my prognosis and that is why I encourage inviting medical students to my consultations. I am a story of possibility not of triumphalism over cancer.
May the soul of Chadwick Boseman rest in peace.

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