Tag: Cancer

Universality of Disease

Universality of Disease

Refuge the 1991 novel by Terry Tempest Williams takes on an amazing approach to the battle of cancer. For anyone who has fought this battle they understand the strength that it takes to overcome this sad truth. Not everyone survives, in fact most don’t, and that when you do the consequences that follow often are worse than the actual disease. This novel takes on the psychological sides of cancer and the physical sides all while keeping the sanity of life too. Disease itself is completely universal and I think that in this point in everyones lives the specific disease of cancer is also universal. Each cancer is different and they all have different treatment plans that also differ from each individual but the experiences and outcomes are often similar. Some people such as Diane, Terry’s mother, take on the deadly situations as positive, they want to live their lives to the greatest. Other people think of this like it is the worst thing that could ever happen and they simply just can’t function anymore. Most will fall in-between these two extremes.

Before even reading the entire novel I knew that the words spoke to me and my personal experiences. I ended up calling my dad to tell him about the take that this book had on the understanding of cancer. He has always looked at his cancer as a war, the fact that he was fighting against his own body. After I told him that he should read it he sent me this…

“I didn’t ask for this fight. I wouldn’t wish this disease on Satan himself. But, I’m in this fight. Make no mistake. Im in it. I choose to see myself not as a victim or a patient, but as a combatant. This isn’t just a fight. This is a war. It’s a war that rages inside of me every second of every day. The enemy is clever. It looks for ways around my body’s natural immune system. It hides in plain sight with impunity. It looks for ways to mutate and change so that the latest weapons my doctor gives me becomes less effective until they no longer work. It relentlessly attacks me over and over again… each time making me weaker and weaker. Im still new to this. I’ve only been on three rounds of Rev/Dex (chemo), but my resolve is stronger today than it was the first day I took all of those pills. Im not going to lose this fight. Im not giving an inch. Im not going to be moved by this. I will stare this beast in the eyes and fight with everything I have. I will go as many rounds with this beast that I have to in order to stick around until something else takes me out…. preferably old age, but I will not give in to my Multiple Myeloma.”

“Enjoy the little things”

He being a veteran has served out country for fifteen years and so I think his take on this book would be incredible. For someone who has always been a fighter he looks at this disease as the same thing. Williams stated, “And then suddenly, within the rooms of secrecy, patient, doctor, and family find themselves engaged in war” (43) which is completely true. For anyone who has sat there in the doctors office listening to them tell you parent, sibling, relative, or even yourself you know that this is something your body can’t fight on its own. That is why we have to poison it with chemicals and surgeries. My father of course has thought many times about whether these chemicals entering his body is truly worth it but for him he has two daughters, one being me, and we are what makes it worth it. The nights where he can’t sleep, the endless amounts of illness, it is like your body is slowly folding in on itself and is consuming every bit of your life. He’s a fighter but Williams also asks the question, “Can we be at war with ourselves and still find peace?” so I asked myself this question which I think every fighter has too. Being mentally stable while being destroyed by cancerous cells, chemo, and radiation is what makes you be at peace with yourself. To get past the stages of ‘why me’, ‘how could God do this to me’, and ‘how am I going to get through this’ is what will leave you at peace. I think that you have to accept this situation and choose whether or not you want to make yourself sicker to get better or if you want to live out your life the way it is and however long it last is fate.

This book reaches out to everyone who has had to deal with the death of anyone from cancer. Each sentence creates a world that is relatable and understanding. Reading someone else’s reality can often put the reader at ease with their own personal battles. I plan on taking this book with me next time I see my father so that way he can read it. He loves being able to read other peoples stories and to grasp their ways of living through this war. Even when this book is discussing the bird refuge it reaches out the those who love to protect their earth which allows for the similarity between those who are battling the disease and the battle that we as humans are fighting with mother earth.

Healthy World, Healthy Body

Healthy World, Healthy Body

The health issues within humans have become a large topic of discussion lately. The environment surrounds all human beings at all times. Therefore it makes sense that most of our health issues are coming from our surroundings. It all counteracts with each other and when we as humans are killing our environment it makes sense that it is killing us back. Rachel Carson talks a lot about the different effects of the chemicals that we are using to fight against the earth that are hurting ourselves. As I have talked about in another recent post, Cancerous Chemicals, Carson uses multiple ways of stating how we are slowly killing our bodies by trying to ‘help’ our environment.

“belief that malignant diseases can be reduced significantly by determined efforts to identify environmental causes and to eliminate them or reduce their impact. For those in whom cancer is already a hidden or a visible presence, efforts to find cures must of course continue. But for those not yet touched by the disease and certainly for the generations as yet unborn, prevention is the imperative need” (242-243).

This quote stated in Carson’s book Silent Spring is the perfect example of what we as humans need to be doing and continue doing. It is sad to think that those who have yet to be introduced to cancer do not think about their impact but it is true. Bringing out the truth is yet again the answer to most of our questions. The environment is changing every single day and we are the cause of this change. All of the little things that we do allows for the earth to move with us on the road toward the future. But moving forward can’t involve most humans to be left behind from diseases. Cancer kills millions of people every year and yet we are still not changing our ‘needs’ when it comes to larger crops, bigger plants, and ways of living.

Ken Treloar- Unsplash

“Our fragmentation of this subject cannot be our cure, because it is our disease. The body cannot be whole alone. Persons cannot be whole alone. It is wrong to think that bodily health is compatible with spiritual confusion or cultural disorder, or with polluted air and water or impoverished soil” (107).

We are never whole. Without the environment we aren’t whole. Without each other we aren’t whole. Without knowledge we aren’t whole. Berry needs to find the answer to what makes us whole. I personally need to find the answer as well. How can we be whole without demeaning each other, bringing people down, introducing chemicals, or dying. Humanities health is becoming less and less, minute by minute. I think it is extremely hard to understand fully that we are causing a lot of our health problems. Carson uses the truth toward our health mentally and Berry uses more of evidence based support. Which I find to be very helpful when it comes to the comprehension of our ecological and physical health. Berry talks about what the word health even is and it tells the reader to understand the idea that health is wholesome.

Having a healthy world will lead us into having a healthy body. Without the chemicals, pesticides, and negative environmental attitudes our wholeness would become greater. We can be happier and healthier along with keeping our environment safe and healthy as well.

Cancerous Chemicals

Cancerous Chemicals

“For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (15)

Rachel Carson has created this deadly sentence. The bold statement of truth is scary and it makes you stop where you are and just sit in silence for a minute. Of course this may be exactly what she was intending for in her book, Silent Spring. The human body has the ability to store chemicals without causing serious amounts of harm but as the world seems to be evolving the chemicals are becoming too much to handle. Carson is consistently talking about the cause and effects of spraying no only on animals but on humans, these topics hit home and allowed me to focus in on the true impact that we are doing to ourselves.

For hundreds of years we have been spraying chemicals to try and get rid of certain pests that we don’t like and of course it is coming back to haunt every single one of us. Karma. As Carson was talking about the cancerous chemicals that are being tossed around our environment I made a serious connection. My father was diagnosed with cancer around six years ago (Multiple Myeloma) and I remember sitting in the hospital in Boston one day and listening to the doctors question his whole entire life. Everything he has ever done, where he has lived, what he lived next to, his eating styles, literally everything. All of these things that he has done is the probable cause to why he has cancer. I called him the other night and was telling him about Silent Spring when he said, “when I was little we used to run behind trucks that pumped out all of the chemicals… it was like running in a fog storm and we always loved it. Of course now I have cancer but at the time we had no idea that doing this would come back to bite us in the ass.” His statement is completely true. No one had any idea that what they were doing was going to kill them. Not being informed is just as deadly as a gun.

Carson states, “these natural cancer-causing agents are still a factor in producing malignant; however, they are few in number and they belong to that ancient array of forces to which life has been accustomed from the beginning.” The truth behind the scenes is that there always has and always will be cancer causing materials in our world, however, we are amplifying them. The human race is single handedly killing not only the world that we are lucky enough to live in but ourselves.

“We are accustomed to look for the gross and immediate effects and to ignore all else. Unless this appears promptly and in such obvious form that it cannot be ignored, we deny the existence of hazard. Even research men suffer from the handicap of inadequate methods of detecting the beginnings of injury. The lack of sufficiently delicate methods to detect injury before symptoms appear is one of the great unsolved problems in medicine.” (Carson)

I struggle with understanding how we as humans can even live with ourselves knowing that we are destroying everything we have. The quote above is what we as humans have become accustomed too. We look for the simple ways out and for the easy answers. Taking an Advil for your headache is a lot more deadly than just going to sleep and passing through the pain, but we can’t seem to take the risk of hurting even if it means we will be in more pain in the future. The question behind the destruction is, do we actually know what we are doing? Sadly, most do not have a single clue, that even the tiniest of things are ruining the great place that we get to call home. It is very clear throughout Carson’s book that more people need to be informed about the issues with our environment and what we are doing internally to ourselves.

Although changing one’s whole life around to prevent environmental damage is difficult but one person can start the train of difference in the world and within ourselves.