Cancer does not care what you think or what you feel. It does whatever it wants.
Several months ago a young man came into our office with a strange looking lesion on his scalp. I was not sure what it was but I knew it wasn’t normal. It was big enough and weird enough that I referred him on to a specialist for the biopsy. My worst fears were confirmed when the pathology report came back as a very rare type of melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. I referred the patient to a cancer specialist for ongoing treatment.
The cancer doctor immediately recommended that he see a plastic surgeon for a wider excision to make sure that none of the cancer was missed and to also biopsy a lymph node in the area to make sure the cancer had not started to spread. The patient didn’t want to go. He didn’t want the scar, didn’t want to deal with the recovery, didn't want to believe it was serious. He refused to listen to the oncologist’s warnings not to trust that all of the cancer had been removed in the initial incision. The patient refused the doctor's advise and decided to instead try herbs and holistic medicines.
The cancer wasn’t impressed with the patient’s interest in natural remedies, nor did it care that the patient believed he was cured. It spread anyway, and it spread everywhere. Lungs, liver, and bones all had tumors within a matter of months. The patient is in his early twenties and is too young to die. The cancer does not care. The odds for long term survival are not good.
Cancer never cares what we want or think. It is a heartless killer. Colon cancer does not care that you are afraid of having a colonoscopy, is not moved by your embarrassment about having someone insert something into your rectum, or worry that you can't take the time off of work. It ignores all of our concerns and attacks who it wants when it wants. It will attack 1 in 20 Americans and do what cancer does. If not caught in time it will spread and it will kill.
Breast cancer does not care that mammograms can be uncomfortable or that you have sensitive breasts. It does not care that no one else in your family has had cancer, or how big or small your breasts are. It will attack 1 in 11 American women and do what cancer does.
Cancer can not be wished away or ignored into oblivion. It does not care how positive your thoughts are. It does not care how many children you have or about your retirement plans. It moves at its own pace on its own timetable. It does not discriminate. It does not care about the color of your skin, your religious faith or what you do for a living. For many cancers it does not care whether you or male or female. It does not care whether you or rich or poor. It can attack anyone and when it does it will try to do what cancer does. It will spread and it will kill.
So what can we do? Like any enemy it is best to attack when the opponent is weak and small. While early detection does not always guarantee victory there are cancers for which it truly matters, such as breast and colon cancer. Smart people get colonoscopies and mammograms done when they turn 50. Smokers can stop smoking, and those who have smoked too long and too much can get CT scans to look for cancer after age 50 as well. When diagnosed with cancer we can listen to our doctors and pursue aggressive treatments, and trust their opinions more than our feelings. We deny denial a chance to harm us. We can do these things because we care about ourselves and our families, even when cancer doesn’t.
Thanks for reading and sharing. More importantly, thanks for getting your colonoscopies and mammograms!