A few days ago, I attended a Melissa Etheridge concert. It was an amazing show. The woman is a wonderful musician and song writer who performed with great energy for more than two hours.
And she's a cancer survivor. In fact, she discovered her lump when she was last in Ottawa in 2004. Her return to this city must have felt triumphant. I have always been a fan of her music but the way she handled cancer and what she wrote about the experience have turned her into one of my heroes (and her description of chemotherapy really resonated with me. It's hard not to feel a kinship with someone whose experiences so closely reflect my own).
I have listened to her music a lot during treatment; her old songs, to which I know all the words and some new ones, recorded more recently, that can bring tears to my eyes or make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
It was quite wonderful to see her on stage, obviously strong, fit and joyous.
There was, however, a moment during the concert that has given me much to think about. Melissa talked about the brutality of chemo and the love and support of her spouse and community that got her through. She also talked about how cancer made her re-examine her life and re-think her priorities. These things are true for me as well. Then, she summed up her experience by saying, "Cancer is a gift."
That's when she lost me.
There is no question that there are ways that having cancer has enhanced my life. I am stronger and more confident. I am also much more cognizant of what a fortunate person I am. I have benefitted greatly from the time I've had to reflect over the last few months.
But would I say that cancer is a gift? Am I glad that it happened to me?
I am still furious.
Not long after my diagnosis, I purchased a t-shirt from www.gotcancer.org that more accurately reflects my feelings. It has the letters CCKMA emblazoned on the front, with the smaller caption: "Cancer can kiss my ass."