Cancer has its privileges.
I got an urgent message last month to call my aunt. "Krista, I need you!" was the tearful voice that answered the phone.
My aunt had just been diagnosed with colon cancer.
I remembered the kindness of others who had "been there" so that they could "be there" for me when the shock of the C-word hit my life. Back then I didn't know if I would survive to be in a position to help instead of being helped, and so I considered it a privilege to be needed by my aunt, and to be available to try and help.
Laughter helps. We call each other the "coin sisters" (I got heads, she got tails). And to make this picture even more perfect, we acknowledged that the person who links us together is her older brother -- my father -- who grew up being nicknamed "Flip." Interestingly, the Avastin chemotherapy that is working so well for me is used off-label for brain tumors, because it is approved for use in treating colon cancer. (I always knew I was covered from top to bottom.) So we potentially had that in common.
Clean living and prayer can't prevent every possible ailment (we all have to die from something at some point), but it paid off for my coin sister. She has gone through surgery and so far things look very favorable. The doctors believe they caught this in time before it spread. So hopefully long life will be another thing we share in common.
So why is there so much cancer touching the people in our lives? I've heard many theories, from cell phones to chemicals to the theorist's political agenda of the day. My personal theory is that we are running out of other things to die from, so our cells have more opportunity to mutate.
We put our babies to sleep on their backs, and we vaccinate them. Fisher Price's Little People toys aren't chokable-sized like they were when I was a kid. Schools have vigorous "peanut free" policies and "zero tolerance" against weapons or drugs (even if said weapon is a kindergartener's finger and the drug is a bag of lemon cough drops). We have better safety features in our cars. We have antibacterial soap and better food safety practices. We have medical advances that save more lives than ever. Workplace hazards are not like they were during the industrial revolution. We try to keep lead out of dishes and paint and pipes and toys. People don't go onto airplanes with more than 3 ounces of liquid or gel on their person. Stuff like that.
The average life expectancy is double what it was a century ago, which means that DNA gets to replicate more often than it used to. Each replication is a roll of the dice, and when it replicates incorrectly, that's cancer. And since everyone has a time to be born and a time to die, if we have eliminated infant mortalities and finger-gun attacks and lead poisoning from the population then something else has to call people home when it's their time. (I'm glad it's not spontaneous combustion.) But now as more people are surviving cancer, and when they finally eradicate it with a cure then we'll start to see something else emerge, like people Botoxing themselves into suspended animation in their extreme old age.
Until then, my coin sister and I share an opportunity to see each day of our lives as a gift. And between heads and tails and having half a mind and being the butt of jokes we have plenty of material for sharing some good, immune-boosting laughs.