Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Edward's Campaign: The Case For Continuing

I'm fired up. I've been meaning to write about the Edward's announcement but I kept putting it off because the media reaction to it has been particularly annoying. Then today I saw this little post on a supposedly "progressive politics" blog and I got downright aggravated. I fired off a response but I'm not sure they'll even post it and I don't think I have the patience to write a separate one for my blog after creating that one. So, here it is.
December 11, 2006 I marked the fourth anniversary of my diagnosis with incurable bone cancer but my doctors agree that it had been in my chest for several years before it was diagnosed. My tumor was found to be attached to one of my ribs, pushing into my spinal column, and wrapped around the aorta going to my heart. Since that diagnosis I've had radiation and three surgeries. It was hard to get through but I did it.

I have all of my body parts except for pieces of a couple of my ribs which they took out when they de-bulked my tumor. I can eat whatever the hell I want. I can ride rollercoasters and get more than a little tipsy on St. Patrick's Day and this summer I'm going to take my first cross-country road trip with my friends and my spouse. I'm not paralyzed. I have a full head of hair, all of my teeth, both breasts, two working eyes and ears and I'm even slightly overweight. Yeah, that's right. Since I got diagnosed and went through all of those treatments, I haven't lost a single pound. I'm not all shriveled up with chapped lips and a death-rattle for a voice despite how television and movies love to depict folks with cancer. I've been yelled at lots of times in parking lots because people look at me and think that I have no business being in the spots reserved for "the handicapped". In fact, unless I were to take of my shirt and show you my two surgical scars, you wouldn't know that I'd ever had anything done to me at all.

And you know what? I'm not an anomaly. There are millions of folks like me walking around in this country. I think a lot of people who haven't had cancer don't really understand how many advancements have been made in cancer care over the past few years. Soon after my grandfather got diagnosed with lung and throat cancer twenty years ago, he began to look like the picture that most Americans have in their head when they think of the word "incurable cancer". Today it's a hell of a lot different. I have accomplished more in the years since my diagnosis than I had in all the years before it.

You are doing your readers a HUGE disservice by advancing the erroneous notion that "incurable cancer" is synonymous with "terminal cancer". There is an enormous difference between the two! You can be incurable for many, many years without ever becoming terminal. You can become terminally ill even though your cancer is, at least in theory, curable. In my own case, lupus (my other health condition) has threatened my life many more times than my cancer has.

Speculating about someone's condition without even seeing the details of their medical records can have very hurtful consequences. For many people, the internet is one of the first sources they use to find information when they or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and I can personally attest to how distressing it can be to try and un-do the damage caused by misinformation about cancer.

Honestly, there is no reason why Mrs. Edward's cancer should be considered a reason for her husband to stop campaigning. She's healthier than Richard Cheney was when he became Vice President--a position that I think is much more taxing to one's health than simply being a potential first lady. She's young enough to be considered a good candidate for many, if not all, of the treatments that would be recommended in order to keep her fairly healthy. She's much richer than the average cancer patient so she can afford to get the very best care in whatever country it may be found instead of being limited to just one group of doctors may be able to do for her. Besides, I think what we should really consider is the fact that continuing this campaign is what she says she WANTS her husband to do and that, above all else, is more than enough reason for them to go on.

People can wind up wasting years of their life just sitting around waiting because they think that being incurable means they about to turn up their toes and die. And what if Mrs. Edwards does die of cancer eventually? Well, sitting around at home wouldn't have prevented it from happening.


Anonymous said...

You are doing your readers a HUGE disservice by advancing the erroneous notion that "incurable cancer" is synonymous with "terminal cancer". There is an enormous difference between the two! In my own case, lupus has threatened my life many more times than my cancer has.

When I heard John Edwards say that I felt hopeful for those living with incurable cancer. My dad was disgnosed a month ago with prostate cancer and will get radiation for two months this summer. His urologist said it's more likely that men at this age die from something else like being hit by a car than the cancer. It hasn't spread to the bone so it may be cured. Ever the pessimist, I will always look out for its return and bug him to get checkups.

bint alshamsa said...

Geez, what I wouldn't give to switch places with your dad, seriously. Prostate cancer is HIGHLY curable. My grandfather got prostate cancer about ten years ago and he's still out fishing every day. In fact, he's had two knee replacement surgeries since that diagnosis which goes to show that even after all of the treatment (which was a lot more harsh back then than it is now), he was still left in good health. There are no guarantees Donna, but your dad's doctor wasn't being overly optimistic when he said that about your father's cancer. I've seen so many folks cured of prostate cancer that I'm sure I'd miss some names if I tried to list them all.

If you need someone to talk to while your family is going through this, just let me know. I'd be happy to give you my phone number or e-mail address if you want. In the mean time, hang in there, okay?

Kai said...

I love this post, Bint. And I love your blog and your spirit and your mind on fire.

Anonymous said...

The idea of my dad having cancer is freaking me out. I can't explain. I thought my parents would live forever. He spent three hours at the hospital today. He's been injected a few times to lower his testosterone and he'll have to go to about forty radiation treatments. Anyway, thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, I may ask for your info when he gets into treatments. I've emailed you before to join a listserv but have a feeling you never got the email.

Cassandra Says said...

There's something downright creepy about the way the press is covering this story. The fake concern, the fact that you can already see that it will be used as a way to imply Edwards is a bad person for not stopping his campaign regardless of what his wife actually wants...creepy all around.
Cancer terrifies me, largely because my mother died of breast cancer. There is no doubt though that treatments have come a long way, and that having one's entire family react to a diagnosis by stopping all normal activities and sitting on deathwatch (which is what the media seem to expect Edwards to do) is unlikely to help anyone cope with their diagnosis.