Cancer doesn’t happen to me

Cancer doesn’t happen to me. No, cancer doesn’t happen to me. Twenty three days ago I didn’t know I had cancer. That made more sense. No, cancer doesn’t happen to me.

Cancer happens to others; people with breasts, older people in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. Cancer happens to smokers, to the obese, to those who don’t take care of their bodies or watch what they eat. Cancer happens to laborers exposed to toxic work environments. Cancer doesn’t happen to me. Cancer happens to other people, not me.

Cancer and me. Cancer doesn’t happen to me. I take care of myself. I watch my diet and exercise regularly. I suppose these things don’t matter.

I am 31 years old, one of the youngest, if not the youngest in the chemotherapy infusion ward. I feel that some people look at me and think that their situation could be worse, because I am younger than they, and I too have cancer. Cancer happens to me.

Still, cancer doesn’t happen to me. It happens, amidst the ignorance that it can’t, and then cancer is. I feel like it could not have happened, like two polar opposites–that which could happen and that which could not–have collided, erupted, and left me, sitting coldly in a cancer room called the infusion treatment area. This outcome has changed my reality, my family, perceptions of my reality, and me. I am still Josh, and cancer cannot define me, but it has changed so much. This cancer can only hurt me through death. Otherwise, it can only make me stronger.

I am strong. I am a survivor. Cancer happened to me, and it’s still hard to believe or make sense of. The suddenness adds to the shock, but perhaps suddenness beats prolongment. Still, I can’t believe that cancer happened to me, a 31 year old otherwise healthy individual.

I know none of this matters, but I’m a kind person. I hold the door for people. I say thank you. I talk to strangers and do my best to listen well. I care for my wife and daughter and I am there for my brother and friends when they need me. I do my best to be respectful, to do work that helps others, and to treat others like I wish to be treated. I know, none of this matters. Cancer isn’t some sort of moral ruling on character. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. While it may not be indiscriminate, its selection process has nothing to do with the above traits. Cancer has no bounds. It has me, but I will beat it. Cancer can happen to me, but it cannot have me.

About Emerging Environments

Thoughts about environmental policy, sustainability, cancer, and more.
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5 Responses to Cancer doesn’t happen to me

  1. momof4athome says:

    It really doesn’t have any bounds…it is a disease that has no prejudices…
    I support you on your journey….

  2. I understand this all too well. It changes your matrix but is an opportunity for incredible transformation. It has happened to me twice and I will not be taken. I wish you and your family all the best. It is not a death sentence. Thank you for checking out my blog. Take care.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Josh, I just started reading your blog. Your voice is powerful.

    I’ve been twice diagnosed with breast cancer, the first time at 29 (at the time the youngest person in the infusion ward) and a second time at 40 (by then a wife and mom of two daughters). Over time, cancer survivor becomes an integral aspect of your identity, but it doesn’t have to take over all else. Stay strong.

  4. hbmorris says:

    This is excellent, Josh. I really like your writing, but I really hate your cancer. I will think of you and will check back for updates. Take care.

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