Atrocity, Thy Name Is Cancer Cancer is a blight on the human species. It's a leading cause of death worldwide. After having my share of dealings with this evil and monstrous disease, I move that it be obliterated from the face of this planet. There are brilliant scientists and researchers working on that, so I think my small piece of the solution is to draw attention to how it's affected me personally, and encourage my family and friends to take a look at the way we're living - and change our ways to avoid cancer, or at least to detect it early. The person who probably knew me better than any other was Larry Fegan. We met in grade 9 and bonded immediately. We were nothing alike. We came from different family types, different socio-economic backgrounds, different religious systems, totally diverse upbringings and yet it was as if we could read each others' minds right from the first moment. He was my confidante, my sounding board, my conscience, my best friend and my knight in shining armour. He was always there for me - and regularly picked up the pieces of my tattered existence, bundled them up, handed them to me and told me to stitch them back together. Larry impacted my life immeasurably, and had my son Michael been a girl, he would have been Lauren. (I know that seems nonsensical - because why not name him Larry? but that's another story... ) My deepest regret is that Michael and Larry never met. Larry passed away from liver cancer on July 23rd (my birthday) - of the year Michael was being born on Larry's birthday - cosmic, isn't it? When someone tells you that a couple of weeks won't make a difference, don't believe them. I lost one of the best and most significant people in my life to liver cancer in my (and his) 30's. He is simply irreplaceable and I think about him every single day. Larry smoked from the time he was 14 years of age. Don't smoke. One of my very best friends, Sue Dahmer, has recently come out on the other side of her breast cancer treatment. One mastectomy later, she is stronger, more beautiful, infinitely more whole than she's ever been. Sue used her breast cancer journey to strengthen her family, educate her children, improve her marriage and influence her friends to reach beyond the limits we've set for ourselves. Sue Dahmer is da bomb, baby!!! I couldn't be more proud of her. She inspires me to believe George Eliot when she said, 'It is never too late to be what you might have been.' I want to be as strong as Sue is. Sue is a survivor. She recognized an unusual lump in her breast and sought immediate medical attention. Know the signs to look for. My mother is a breast cancer survivor too - well over the "5 year mark" now, Thank God. I think I was numb through most of her journey, but walking her to the doors of her surgery was one of the scariest moments of my life. Sitting holding my dad's trembling hands while she was undergoing the surgery was one of the most life-changing moments I've ever experienced. Before that, I would have thought that my dad was made of stone. He's not. He was as terrified (or more so) as I was that everything wouldn't work out as we hoped. It was my first clue that my parents were symbiotic and that one would be irreparably altered by the loss of the other. I pray that I develop a relationship like theirs. Mom had regular mammograms and her cancer was caught early. Early detection is everything. Get tested regularly. In recent years, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and after that, leukemia and lymphoma. He battled both in his heart and mind every single day. Although he didn't share his innermost feelings about it, I know that he was afraid of chemo, didn't want to be sick and tired all the time and deeply resented what he perceived to be the loss of his independence and manhood. I lost my amazing dad to cancer this summer. He never worried about his health until it was a problem. He didn't eat properly as he aged, and as a result, developed Type II Diabetes. This not only complicated everything but quite possibly allowed the disease to take hold. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and veggies - the deeper the colour, the better. My husband, Rollie, was diagnosed with a malignant pancreatic tumour in 2008. They found it accidentally - or I doubt we would have known before it was too late. He required a "Whipple Procedure" which essentially meant that they cut out several affected sections of his pancreas, duodenum, and intestinal tract, re-sectioned and attached him back up in a totally different way and then waited to see if his body would adjust. The procedure has been said to have a 5% or less success rate. We prepared for him to die. Thank God he appears to be in that blessed 5%. We've spent a few hellish years dealing with treatment, surgery and recovery, but now, in the aftermath, things are looking better and he improves every day. (We still have scares... ) Rollie was in amazing physical shape before this happened. A few months previous to detection, our insurance company actually LOWERED his premium due to his youthful energy and fitness level. He swam, biked and walked all the time. He knew his body and recognized that there was something wrong, and he was fit enough to live through extensive surgery and to regenerate quickly. Get regular exercise and stay physically fit. In all of the above examples (even the survivors) I grieved. Grief isn't just about the death of someone you love... it can also be about having to adjust to a new set of rules and values after things and people we love change. It's actually just emotional development: allowing yourself to feel sad, to think about the unfairness of it, to think how things used to be, and how different they are now. There have been times when I caved, and allowed myself to feel as though my heart and head were exploding and that I'd never be able to feel good about anything again. But underneath it all I know I will. Avoiding thinking about the feelings is sometimes easier, but they always catch up with me anyway, so I end up choosing to face them in the here and now. Doing the hard emotional work is what allows me to move forward and claim my life as my own. Interesting sidebar - the person most willing to explore this with me is my sister-in-law. We weren't close in the beginning, but I've developed a deep respect and affection for her over the years. She always seems to be there for me. Go figure. Thanks Sam. And of course Sue has been an incredible example of grace under fire - my admiration for her knows no bounds. Be open with your loved ones about your concerns and talk to them about your feelings. Be there for each other. I hope that just one person reading this will make a small change in their life that will make the difference that means avoidance of - or early detection of - this disease. Cancer IS a blight on the human species and I hope beyond hope that I can make even the tiniest contribution to encouraging those I care about to make conscious lifestyle changes so that they are less likely to be affected. An eclectic fusion of dot-connector, writer, learner, relationship- builder, strategist and adventurer, Margot Thompson has a passion for all things relational and communication-oriented. She is a writer simply because she loves to write - not to make money, be published or be known as such (these things are incidental when they happen). Margot writes about things that matter to her heart and subjects she deeply believes in, thereby defining her own art and setting her own limits. One can always find her with multiple concurrent writing projects on the go - often working on the stories of everyday heroes (which inspire her) and definitely accompanied by music. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.