What I’ve Learnt about Cancer… So far

As close friends and family are all now acutely aware, Adam was diagnosed with what the good doctors tell us is a very treatable form of cancer about two weeks ago. In that time, he’s undergone surgery and four chemotherapy sessions with Dr. Daniel Vorobiof, an apparently brilliant, Argentinean, beardy man with a thing for glass.

A man who’s so confident of his abilities, he’s calling for some cancers to not even be called cancer anymore. Cheeky fucker- it must be the beard.

It’s been a crazy, non-stop deluge of ‘stuff to do’, paused only by a rare, but increasingly frequent emotional meltdown. But the fact is that we have a lot in our favour- the first being the doctors who did, and are still, treating Adam with efficiency and care; the second being the incredible network of friends and family who have all pledged support; and third: Adam is, in fact, the batman.

There are others who have worse prognoses and less support, or who for any number of reasons, are taking a different path with this disease and so I apologise in advance for not accurately portraying your experience in this article.

Because the first thing I’ve learned about cancer is that:

1. It’s always personal

I could hear a hundred stories from a hundred different people and still never imagine the moment I heard Adam confirm his diagnosis. We’d been fighting- over his not wanting to go to the doctor for the troublesome back pain he’d had for weeks- and when he told me he was going for tests, I just wondered, ‘I wonder if he’ll be home in time for the fridge delivery guys’. That’s how unprepared I was.

Even when he said the word ‘cancer’ over the phone, I didn’t really believe him. It’s took the smell of hospitals, and anaesthesia fever-dreams and days of chemotherapy-grogginess to make it real. And even then, we were cracking jokes in the hospital room and arguing over movies. Your life doesn’t turn into a Hallmark movie overnight.

2. You can only keep yourself busy so long

Adam will disagree based on the times I’ve gone, as my friend Alecia has coined this mood: ‘nuclear’, but I’ve always liked to think of myself as being good in a crisis. I can be steady, strategic, prudent and pragmatic. I can make casseroles and sandwich platters. But there is only so much busy work in the world. It’s not when things need to get done, or when the stress is high, it’s the quiet times that suck.

3. Sleep is likely a crazy ex-girlfriend

Like Jerry Springer crazy. First she’s all like ‘that’s it we’re finished!’ and I don’t see her for a couple of nights. Then she swings by on the back of some schedule 6 anxiety medication, we have a wild night together and she leaves me begging for more in the morning. So I drink coffee all day and think about her sweet embrace. Until she cruelly denies me again. And so the cycle continues.

4. People offer to help in any way they can

And I don’t know what to ask for. I want to cry, and then sleep, and then take the deepest bath in the world. I want to finally call the plumber, and paint my toenails and bake cookies. I want to go to gym and do more than just sheepishly swipe my card on the way to buy smoothies. But the reason I’m not doing these things is that as much I want to do them, I don’t really want to do them.

In time, I’m sure I’ll get over it and hit up everyone who’s called or messaged, and have them come around to wash our car or rub our feet or something. But in my shell-shocked state, all I can answer the kind offers with support with is a weak, ‘thanks, I’ll let you know’.

5. Chemotherapy does not, apparently, involve a room of radioactive spiders, capes, wands, wizards, unicorns, lasers, flying monkeys, talking cats, ribbons, glitter, BB guns, robots or literally anything cool at all.   

Because I have been serving my notice at That’s It, I haven’t been able to take Adam for one of these dreaded sessions yet, but apparently it’s boring as balls.

To aspiring oncologists everywhere: fix this, please.

Finally, if you are close to Adam or me (not necessarily both, I get that, he is the nice one), we just want to say thank you for all the calls and messages offering to do everything and anything. I don’t know what we’ll need, if anything, but it’s great to know you guys are all kind of like my bitches now.

Then again, if you want to do something nice without being taken advantage of, you can always open your wallet for a cause I know has been close to Adam’s heart since we met:

The Childhood Cancer Foundation






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