Cancer: The Beast Within

Posted: 14 June 2013 in Cancer, On the Pilgrim's Road
Tags: ,

alien 3

Alien – the first film. Do you remember the alien creature? Bursting out of the bowels of some hapless character? Is this cancer like that? Some beast lurking deep within, waiting to gnaw its way out?

This is just one of the reactions I have felt. In a menu you could try:

  • Denial (of course).  It’s not really there. Let’s not think about it. Blindly do what the doctors say and don’t think about it.
  • Be obsessed by it. Make it dominate all conversations; dominate all perspectives; leave no space for the more mundane (but still exasperating or painful) concerns of others.
  • Objectification and externalisation of it. Put it outside of you.
  • Self righteousness that slips into self pity. Much of modern life seems to allow victimhood, but you can wear it with real vigour.

From early on I had to resist the objectification the cancer. Not to treat it as The Enemy Within. I was not to be some tragic hero in a play of my own making wrestling with a Fifth Column lurking in my bones -to be fought, to be resisted, to be annihilated. (And in the further reaches of my family, there was just such an original Fifth Columnist. He lost his leg planning a bomb, a long time ago……). 

Within it was. But it is not an enemy as such. Not even a separate entity as such either.  For there are 50 to 75 trillion cells in my body. And in yours. Each with its own life span: divides, lives, dies, replaced. The genes split and split and split. And sometimes, there are unexpected variations with each split. Some of these “variations” are advantageous in evolutionary terms. Some are irrelevant. But some are harmful. It seems in my case, that a clutch of duff ones got together in my prostate gland and had a party. And in your case, in your: lung, throat, pancreas, etc?  

What went wrong in me, and more so in the 41,000 or so Britons who are diagnosed each year with Prostate Cancer, is part of the rolling 13 billion year pageant of the Created Order. It is not malign in moral terms. Indeed, it is positive in evolutionary time. It is just not good for the 10,000 men, and thier loved ones, who die of it in UK. They will cry “Why me?”

Sure Richard Dawkins could write the same – I don’t think the Theists and Atheists need pitch a battle on this particular site. The secular reductionist will have evolution as a goal (even as a “god”) in his sight. God wants me to react to my current circumstances that grows me as a human, not shrinks me as a human. He’ll be interested in evolution as well of course.



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