Tag Archives: making peace with cancer

Welcome to Cancer

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, in homage to Cindy Sherman, and inspired by a friend newly diagnosed with cancer, photoshops cancer as a cranky old aunt.Dear J.,

For days, in response to your request for cheerful cards, I’ve been wondering what I could possibly say to “cheer you up” as you embark on your affair with cancer. I call what happens after a diagnosis an ‘affair,’ even though most people call it a ‘journey,’ one’s ‘cancer journey.’ People typically fall or jump into an affair, while journeys are usually anticipated and planned for. Instead, you got swiftly swept away into strange territory. An unusual and engaging and possibly hazardous experience—that is an affair or possibly an adventure. I’m wishing you luck.

From my own past experience as a caregiver, I compare cancer to having a controlling, cantankerous old aunt move into the house. She disrupts all your routines and plans, demanding your attention constantly. She bullies you. Every time you wake she whacks you. Cancer. It’s a shaking-up, a re-thinking of everything you thought you knew and could depend on. It’s a whole new relationship. It is not a fight. The worst of it — the recovering from surgeries, reactions to treatments, and the times you just want to be knocked unconscious — I call the Wilds of Cancer. That’s when the old aunt goes on a rampage, callously gutting you of kidneys and lungs, tearing your world apart. She whips you. She invades your dreams and re-colors every waking moment. She keeps you humble, keeps you ever on the lookout for a respite, and then gets you dreading her return. But she does quiet down here and there, and that is when you can hear your own breath again, feel your heart still beating. That is when you find your whole world is amazingly rich. Even robbed of your energy and well-being, life appears to be beautiful.

I hope you find ways to make peace with cancer. Don’t take her aggressive advances too personally. So many people are living with cancer. Maybe the “cheering up” is in knowing you are not alone. And in learning you can do this — you can do a slow-dance with cancer. Each new morning is a gift. And she may just loosen her grip and ditch you one day, leaving you wiser and more grateful and more respectful of everything in the universe.

I hereby add my best cheer and encouragement to your community of support.


What do you say to a newly diagnosed cancer patient? What can you do to ‘cheer’ them up?