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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Step-Mother is an Alien: How to live with Stage IV Cancer

In 1988, Kim Basinger and Dan Aykroyd, and Alyson Hannigan acted (badly) in a fun little movie titled, My Step-Mother is an Alien. This little fantasy is about an alien (Kim Basinger) who comes to earth disguised as a gorgeous woman to get information about earth and then report back to the mother planet whose keepers are planning to destroy it. To blend in, she marries Dan Aykroyd whose daughter (Alyson Hannigan) suspects that something is amiss when she catches Basinger eating common household batteries. Basinger learns much and decides that earth and its people interesting, quirky and ultimately valuable. As the date for her departure draws near, she tries to put it off as long as possible. When the mother ship finally bids her to come home, she pleads earth’s case, saving it from annihilation and stays with her new family.

In a way, living with stage IV cancer is like being an alien like Kim Basinger (albeit in my case, much less hot). You’re set forth on a new planet (planet Cancer). You have to learn the language and the cultural norms. Once past the initial culture shock, you adapt and learn to really enjoy living. But you know that before too long the mother planet will be calling you home. You’re going to have to leave the place you’ve learned to live in and grown to love.  It’s kind of a bummer, but not completely.

The good thing is that like Basinger’s character, having stage IV cancer can really pique your curiosity about life and the world. Many stage IV people report throwing themselves into life with gusto, having a desperate and almost insatiable hunger to learn and experience new things and people. Meeting those desires is very, very satisfying and can make for a deeply rich life. I myself have started volunteering at my local parish and garden group, taken up the violin, and re-started my graduate education after taking a year-long leave of absence. I have started up new friendships and re-kindled old ones. 

I am reminded of a quote from Sir Walter Scott, “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.”  

Life can be glorious and when the mother ship is coming at any minute, you crowd all you can into that one hour.

Best wishes to all my lung cancer peeps out there. Keep crowding.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sometimes, People with Cancer are Douchebags

In my investigative reading about terminally ill people with cancer, there seems to be a fairy-tale type of quality given to those who have life-threatening illnesses. They can be considered calmer, more serene, and even wiser. People don't seem to write about the people with cancer or other potentially terminal illness who are major douche bags.

I loved Lance Armstrong. There was rarely a bicycle race that he was in that I didn't watch, glued to the TV wondering how in the world such a good-looking person, who had battled and presumably beaten stage IV testicular cancer could ride so fast and climb those mountains so nimbly - he was super-human.


He was doping. And running a doping ring. Shee-it.

My point is that it isn't healthy for people to see people with cancer as exceptional because, #1 they're not, they just have cancer and #2, if they think of people with cancer as exceptional, then they are blinded to any possible douchebaggery that they might engage in and that others could get hurt by.

People with cancer are just people with cancer.

And Lance Armstrong is just a douchebag.