Today, I’m thinking about my mother-in-law, just as I have every day for months.
But, I’m not just thinking about my mother-in-law as she is struggling through the last, grueling phase of cancer. I’m also thinking about my very best friend in all the world, keeping her sights set on her children’s futures as she fights leukemia. I’m also thinking about my colleague, much younger than I, as she wages a head-to-head battle with osteosarcoma. And, I’m thinking about friends, coworkers, family members from all parts of my life who have swallowed this terrifying diagnosis, “winning” and “losing” their private wars.
I’m also thinking about my father-in-law, whose life for months now has been devoted to the unimaginable task of caring for his wife, partner, best friend around the clock as she slowly slips away. I’m thinking about my husband and his siblings, who are silently saying good-bye to the woman who kissed their boo-boos and pulled them in close beside her when they had bad dreams in the night. I’m thinking about my own daughters, whose ears lean in to listen more carefully for clues as they overhear whispered conversations about their grandmother.
I’m thinking about my friends who have watched their own loved ones endure painful sores, unbearable nausea, and grueling treatments. My friends who have themselves struggled with the unmatched mental and physical fatigue of juggling medications and dosages, building wheelchair ramps, and coordinating countless doctor appointments, CTs & PET scans. I’m thinking about my friends who have relied on the kindness of Hospice workers to patiently and lovingly guide them through a “natural” part of life that we will forever struggle to understand.
Then, I think about myself. My husband. My parents. My brothers and sisters-in-law. My daughters. My nieces and nephews. And I think, this cannot continue.
We must make changes.
In my eyes, the only solution lies in prevention, and it starts small. We cannot be caught by surprise. Readers, for World Cancer Day, what are you doing to prevent cancer in your own inner circle? What small step can you take today to reduce your own risks? How can we protect our children from their own cancer stories?
Let’s start today.