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Archive for the ‘Arts & Letters’ Category

A random walk…

It comes down to this: we cannot find truly ethical guidance in a nature shaped by evolution. Natural selection is random—random as to the mutations that produce variation, random as to the accidents of circumstance that make one variant adaptive and another fatal.

The very brief quote above is from a very long essay by Thomas de Zengotita on the Ethics and the Limits of Evolutionary Psychology. But it started a process of thought that went to my alter ego as a cancer survivor as well as an occasional counselor. A question that always comes up, either for physicians or on forums, is “what are my chances?”. The intent of the question is obvious – the hidden word is “survival”.

The answer can only be given as a statistic. But the truth is that the answerable question is “what are the chances?”. The physician can’t truly answer you as to what your particular chances are. That question is unanswerable. The science is that the human body is made up of anywhere between ten to 100 trillion cells made of billions of bits of genes. What if, after all of the research, clinical trials, and bioscience exploration, after all of the surgeries and chemos and radiation treatments, it turns out that cancer is nothing more than a random act of nature?

There is no horror in this. Only that stamping a statistic on your chart is an exercise in biological futility. To ask that question – what chance do I have – is offering the opportunity to have your hope taken away from you. That’s something that should never happen if only because there isn’t a single physician or researcher that can ever answer that question.

As random an act as cancer might be, so it can be with cure. Never ever deny yourself that bit of opportunity.

zola seen at Altamira
gallery and gifts
Islip, NY

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Pinked off…

I’ve written before that I don’t agree with turning cancer into a festival. I don’t participate in marches, walk-a-thons, parades or spin cycle events. I also believe that cancer shouldn’t be considered merchandise either. Although it’s empowering to identify cancer with a color like pink, I don’t believe it belongs on Cheerios cereal, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Eureka vacuum cleaners, or perfume bottles. My own company was approached by a group that wanted us to help them merchandise pink potato chips.

The power of pink has its unintended consequences – the majority of attention and research dollars seems to go to breast cancer as if that is the only type of cancer we’re  struggling with. And maybe there’s a bit of gender politics in it – attacking the breast is attacking the female and the threatening associations that come with it. Breast cancer, quite literally, attacks motherhood itself.

I found it quite unusual when Komen attempted to cut off funding for breast screenings by Planned Parenthood since that literally threatened the breast that they were trying to protect. Most especially since cutting off  those funds would now cut off the opportunities for screenings for women who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to get them. And the decision to cut those funds was based on an “investigation” being conducted by a congressman from Florida.

Even if the investigation turned out to be just another act of political pandering, there is guilt assumed. Which brought the Komen foundation down that same slippery slope.

There is no denying the fundraising juggernaut that the Komen foundation is. They have created a brand that is so powerful, that people believe just by wearing the color pink they can cure cancer. But that powerful muscle has been dragged into an arena where the waters are far more polluted with politics and dogma than with science. The fallout from their decision, and their sudden reversal, isn’t over. What the final impact will be on their outreach, on the agencies they support, and even on their own organization is yet to be felt.

One thing is certain – the color pink will take on a different meaning.

Portrait from The Scar Project © David Jay

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Movie night…

I’ve had the movie 50/50 on my radar for a while. It’s about cancer in a way – but more about the collision between the worlds of Cancer and NotCancer. And it’s a comedy.

When I first saw the ads, I avoided the film. Didn’t see it in the theater. How is cancer funny? But the group of cancer veterans I meet with every month raved about it – and some of them were hit harder than I was.

But it is a comedy – actually it’s dang funny. It doesn’t laugh at cancer – it laughs about cancer and some of the absolute absurdity that surrounds it. There are some rough moments which is why I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone that isn’t a few years out of treatment. Too close to the bone.

The one that keeps it from falling into total pathos is Seth Rogen – who always needs a shave and a haircut, seemingly always walking around with a bottle of beer or a bong in his hand. They also make their cameos.

Rogen plays Kyle, the friend who stands by, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays patient Adam, and a sweet and hopeful Anna Kendrick plays Katherine, the therapist/girl connection.

Skip Netflix – support your local library and pick up or reserve a copy. You ain’t never gonna feel good about cancer – but you’ll definitely have an opportunity to laugh about it.

Trailer below…

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