The words slip out automatically – ‘We have another battle on our hands,’ ‘We’re going to fight this together.’ It’s the cancer lingo, jargon everyone uses to talk about cancer. The implication that Cancer is the foreign body, the enemy inside, something to be battled, fought, rallied against and…hated.
I’ve used these words with Hana, in front of Hana, for Hana. She’s heard the lingo: ‘Good job you’re a fighter sweetie!’ people say. And it’s true, she battles daily for anything resembling a ‘normal’ existence. And it’s true that when we appear to conquer one aspect of her morbidities, something else crops up for us to push for, fight for, fight against, rally our resources. Life is a battle for the whole family unit.
Somewhere deep inside over the past two years I’ve had an itch about the using the words ‘fighting cancer,’ in front of Hana but I didn’t know what the itch was until last week. I want to share that itch with you:
We are on the couch. Hana is hungry.
‘Why am I hungry mum?’
‘I’m not sure baby, you’re not usually hungry for morning tea this early.’ I am just as worried by this as she is.
‘I wish I wasn’t hungry. I don’t like being hungry.’ She begins to cry.
‘Oh sweetie,’ I pull her to me. ‘I know. I don’t like you being hungry too, it’s awful for you.’
The powerlessness I feel against this God awful condition is overwhelming. Why can’t I make this right?
She begins to sob loudly out of sheer frustration. She has tried so hard to overcome this; the youngest child with hypothalamic obesity in the world to get a lap band, keeping busy, the no-carb ketogenic diet, painful injections, horrid medication, keeping busy again. But still, sometimes she gets hungry earlier than morning tea and that ache in her belly brings back dark, dark memories of 18 months of endless hunger and suffering.
‘It’s not your fault sweetie,’ My eyes are filled with tears. ‘It’s not your fault. This is your condition, because you have a brain tumour-‘
‘I know,’ She mouths the words, barely about to speak from crying. But then she blurts out loudly, loud enough to shock Maryam who crawls next to me, a little frightened mouse.
‘I WISH I DIDN’T HAVE A BRAIN TUMOUR!’
The world stops spinning for a second: Hang on, I won’t have this.
I won’t have my daughter wishing her life was different- even though I am guilty of similar thoughts at times. I can’t have my beautiful girl wishing for a different life from such a young age. No, this is not helpful or healthy for her. I need to change this, now.
I stroke her forehead, carefully thinking how to phrase this to turn things around.
‘But you do.’ I say quietly. ‘And this is your body…this is your tumour, this is who you are. This tumour is part of you, baby girl.’
I don’t have to explain any further because she instantly understands what I am saying: Love yourself, cherish yourself, and that includes your cancer.
‘I know,’ her words are heartbroken but I can hear they are accepting, the tears spilling are sad, not enraged. She intuitively cherishes and respects herself too much to be filled with ‘hate’ at the cancer inside. In the same way she accepts and loves her ballooning belly, ‘tummy,’ who she talks to and giggles with (I’m ‘tummy’s’ voice). She hasn’t learnt self-hatred yet, and I’m not about to let her – or teach it to her.
I will not have my daughter filled with hate for an invisible enemy stuck inside her body that she is unable to control and feels she must fight because this is expected of her. Words are powerful.
She begins to calm down and I continue to speak quietly,
‘Your cancer is your body saying “Hello Hana! Something’s not quite right in here and that’s why I’m growing like this!” and together we will try and figure out what it is. It’s not your fault, it’s not your body’s fault and it’s not your cancer’s fault.’
My understanding of cancer has changed since embarking on my journey into Integrative Medicine and Homeopathy. Cancer is seen as the by-product of some sort of systemic “dis-ease” throwing the bodily system into chaos. Surgery, chemo and radiation may remove the cancer, for a while, but the ‘invisible’ cause usually remains unaddressed and so the cancer returns. I particularly love the homeopathic perspective on symptoms that view any symptom as the body behaving in the best possible way it can – under the circumstances. Hana’s cancer is her body reacting in the best possible way it can – under the circumstances. How I can seek to change those circumstances however may well be my life-long project, along with healing her brain.
She nods, tears beginning to dry up while Maryam’s have started, sharing Hana’s suffering. I hold Maryam still and encourage her cry out her the terrible ache inside while Hana pulls herself together, sits up straight beside me and strokes her sister. This is about love, not hate. We love Hana, Hana must love herself and this love must include her cancer, I just can’t see how she could ever heal or hope to be cancer-free if she started carrying around a hatred at such a young age. She must love and respect herself and honour her body for ‘doing the best it can – under the circumstances’ and we must too.
And so there is no speak of ‘war,’ ‘battles’ or ‘fighting cancer’ in our house. Instead we speak of action plans, we feel (and sometimes actively seek) gratitude and we love. And I hope that one day I will be lucky enough to address the root cause for Hana’s cancer, but even if I am, she will still be left with the fallout and so acceptance, and a love for the life she has and we share, is what we try and model.
Hey there! Thanks for stopping by, there is more on my two year long journey with Hana’s diagnosis under Brain Tumour. If this is your first time here why not read ‘About Me’ to see what I’m about – then like my Facebook page if you think you’d be interested in following my journey, I’d love to hear from you.