Cancer

No matter how adult or mature one tries to be, ‘cancer’ is still a scary word. I know enough to know that it’s a pretty well meaningless term. The different forms of cancer are just that – different, and radically so. I guess if it has any real meaning outside of some very specific medical usage, then what it means is ‘scary’.

Right now, I’ve three close friends or relatives who have cancer or who are still undergoing treatment for it. I also have one friend waiting a diagnosis and someone else who’s not quite a friend but is more than an acquaintance who’s just been given the all-clear after several months of treatment.

Once cancer is on the agenda, it’s surprising how quickly you learn of how many people it touches. If it’s not though, it’s one of those things no-one likes to even mention, let alone talk about.

All these cancer cases aren’t a reflection of increasing cancer rates. Rather, they’re a reflection of greater longevity and earlier detection; a reflection of better health care. That’s the rational truth. The emotional reaction is something different.

We – humans – seem very prone to being able to focus on the bad at the expense of the good.

For the three close friends or relatives, it is very, very likely that two of them will undergo their respective treatments and that’ll be more-or-less it: the prognosis for their specific types of cancer is very good. A tough few months but once it’s done it’s done. For the third, the treatment has been life-changing and the consequences will always be there but, again, the prognosis is excellent.

None of that is bad news. Put it in a rational context and it’s quite the opposite: potentially fatal diseases have been detected early and will be cured before they’ve killed anyone. Maybe cancer shouldn’t be so scary. Perhaps it isn’t for people who work with it day in and day out, the doctors, nurses, carers, patients.

It’s odd then that I cycled around today with a heavy heart, having just heard about the third of those people being diagnosed. They say one in three will get some form of cancer and where ever I rode and saw people I couldn’t help but look at them and wonder which of them it would be, how they’d cope, whether they’d be cured, or not. By any measure, that has to be a strange way to look at people.

I know I’ve no reason to be so down about it; it’s a useless emotional reaction that’s wholly misplaced. I suspect that ultimately it’s purely selfish, more to do with me feeling somehow weighed down by worrying about the plight of my loved ones than their actual plights. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s really is something that’s best not talked about.

It’s odd, too, that any strong emotions feel like an intrusion. So much of adult life, particularly anything to do with business, is – in theory at least – deliberately devoid of emotion.