I have lung cancer...
Although, if I asked you to enter a room filled with twenty-five random people and pick out the person with cancer, I don't think that you would be able to pick me out at first glance. From across the room, I would like to think that I look like the average guy in his forties.
So let's put you to the test, should be easy right, there is bound to be someone, man, woman or child who is bald, that's the way you tell, right? Sorry not in this crowd. You'll need to look for clues as you make your way through the room.
As you cut through the heart of the room, looking us all over before you make a decision, you begin to observe all the things that make us individuals and thus unique and identifiable.
For instance the woman on my left with the short brown hair, dressed in a conservative manner, black skirt just below the knee, slight run in the back of her nylon just above her ankle on her left leg, (she will not become aware of this fact until this evening when she's feeding her cat) the fact that she left the house like that will drive her to tears. Receptionist by trade, her one office rebellion, she sometimes would leave a button on her blouse intentionally un-buttoned in hopes that her boss might give her a second glance.
To my right stands a young man in jeans and a tee shirt eagerly watching his cell phone awaiting a message of vital importance regarding either world peace or the location of tonight's party.
To his right, a man in a three piece suite, looking at his watch obviously late for something obviously avoid, he wears his anguish on his face. The lady in red to his right holding her purse tight meets your eyes dead on in defiance. The older couple next to her holding hands, the man in front with the torn jacket but happy eyes. The young lady in her twenties who won't look you in the eyes but has been working hard to catch the attention of the young man across the room who is staring at his phone. Different races, different back rounds, different ages.
We all look...well for lack of a better phrase, normal. Even the guy with the awkward sun tan on the right side of his neck looks,....wait a minute, upon closer examination that's not a sun tan, it's a burn ( You could be on to something).
As you continue to look around at the faces and manners and details that make up twenty five individual lives, you subtly and deliberately begin to move in my direction. Not looking directly at me more keeping me in the corner of your eye as if direct eye contact would send me hurdling over the lady sitting cross legged on the floor and bolting out the door like a spooked deer on a cold autumns day.
Different faces, from poorly kept beards to poorly applied lipstick and you have found me, at least you think. There is the guy with the limp on the North side of the crowd and the lady with the cough somewhere in the crowd. Also the young mother and child combo that you haven't clearly seen yet.
You now are just a few feet in front of me and you have decided that now is the time to size me up. You are now sure about the burn which runs down the side of my neck but not sure of the cause and the random scares on my face you chalk up to a life well lived but no different than anyone else in the room. Other then thinning hair there's nothing else.
You turn away and start to move toward the coughing, registering me as a possibility but not for sure.
I could let you wander around for hours trying to find the cancer victim/survivor but I'm gonna help you out(cause that's the kinda guy I am).
When we think of cancer we attribute the number one "tell" as baldness. A loss of hair do to radiation and chemotherapy. On the same token, in most instances hair loss is a temporary side effect and although traumatic, a small price to pay for life.
I have lost my hair twice but just like Lassie, it always comes home. Unfortunately, the return of one's hair doesn't signify that your cured only that your moving forward.
Here are the rest of my tell tale signs. Anyone who has gone through treatment will have one, all, or their own special variations of the following.
First, The radiation burn down the side of my neck and face is a permanent reminder of the radiation treatments I received twice a day. So you get a point for spotting that.
If I had left the second button of my shirt unbuttoned, you might have noticed the small blue dot located in the upper center of my chest. This is an alignment tattoo, there is a matching one just a few inches lower, together they form the "Blue Badge of Courage", that you receive prior to beginning radiation therapy. These two marks are the reference points for the administering of radiation into your body.
If you had asked me to take my shirt off, you would of come face to face with the various scares that run up my left torso and onto my back, reminders of the end of a months stay in the hospital. You would have to have a conversation with me to realize that the man who used to host hour long meetings is now limited to five to ten minutes of conversation before his voice begins to crack and fade.
You would have to live with me to understand the effect of a flight of stairs or sometimes putting on a pair of socks in my life.
You would have to be very close to me to realize that my short term memory sometimes, how shall we say it, "takes an untimely coffee break" or how sometimes I lose focus during a conversation and wander off into my own little world.
Everyone who goes through treatment will have their own side effects or maybe no side effects at all. That is the individuality, the personal relationship, you develop with cancer.
So how do you feel you did? You looked around the room, but what did you truly see? In your defense, you only were allowed to see the obvious, the run in the stockings as it were.
If you were able to see behind the obvious here are some of the things you might have found. By the way, welcome to the room number twenty six.
Looking back to our cast of characters, let's start with our impatient friend in the three piece suit. In actuality he is late for a meeting at the bank in a desperate attempt to save his house he, along with seven other people in our room own one of the 30% of mortgages that are "underwater" (I believe is the right phrase) in the United States. The look on his face is because he realized long before he set out this morning that he would receive no mercy where he was heading and would soon end up being notified by a sheriff deputy or better yet, a newspaper ad that he had lost his families house to foreclosure.
As for our friend in the black skirt with the hungry cat, she cries tonight because she's left wondering if the small run in her stocking was the reason that she once again did not get hired. She is losing hope because she hasn't worked since the corporate downsizing a year ago, although she noticed that the company that let her go has just announced another record quarter of profits. She along with Three other people in the room represent the actual unemployment rate of 15% in America today.
Me, I represent the 40% of people who will or do have cancer. I am not going to point out the other Nine people in the room who are going to be joining me in this statistic but you have looked them all in the eyes today.
Last but not least the young mother and child. Her daughter had developed a cough a few days back that has now escalated into something worse. She is on her way to a walk in clinic praying that she can be seen even though She and her daughter are amongst the 16% or 52,000,000 uninsured Americans out there. There are at least three others in the room that currently have no insurance whatsoever and although I said I wasn't going to do this, I'm going to let you in on a secret one of those three people are going to be inflicted by cancer this year. If that person follows suit with 75,000,000 other Americans this year they will defer seeing a doctor or pursuing the treatment they need do to a lack of insurance. That number is going to continue to get worse due to the number of Americans who have now bled or soon will, their savings accounts or racked up mass amounts of credit card debt to pay for their health care premiums, and as soon as they can no longer make the monthly payment, will be cast aside by a heartless insurance industry.
Well will you look at that, 10 with cancer,4 unemployed, 8 losing houses, 4 uninsured. 10+4+8+4= AMERICA
As I look around my empty room where my twenty five imaginary Americans dwell, I picture them in my mind and try to find the common ground. The thing that makes us one and the same. I believe it to be this.
We as a culture, as Americans, have an optimism about us that allows us to say, "No matter how bad this gets", "It's going to get better." We hold onto the belief that there's a job waiting around the corner, that there's a chance that that the bank will have a change of heart, that cancer will be cured and that the government will do the right thing and provide healthcare to everyone regardless of race, color,creed or financial status.
We believe that eventually the good guy is going to win and the people with only self interest along with the people who defend and support them will be asked to change their ways or be forced out of town by (using a term so many out of touch politicians use) "The average Americans."
The common ground... "We The People" are survivors.
All percentages used are from various articles found on the internet.
If you question them, Do your own homework and write your own article.
It's still a free country for now.
Tim Giardina is the co-founder and President of the GFLCCO as well as a current small cell lung cancer survivor. The GFLCCO is developing a World Wide network of supporters with facts and information regarding lung cancer, lung cancer treatment, proper diets and exercise and alternative medicines and treatments as well as valuable links to a deep pool of resourses for patients and their families.
The primary function of the GFLCCO is to support Scientists by funding research for a cure. If you would like to learn more about the GFLCCO, need information or support or would be interested in reading more of Tim's work, please visit us at http://www.gflcco.com/.
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