Sometimes I wish I was a woman. I was 30 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer (Burkitts Lymphoma) on New Years Day 2007. At the time I was a fit guy who hadn’t drunk for 12 years, had never taken drugs, was active in sports and had a loving wife. Yet I got cancer.
It was as confusing as it was terrifying.
Where was the inspiration?
My treatment story is like many others with cancer. Frightening diagnosis, intentional on-mass chemical poisoning, insomnia and frightening follow up scans and body issues.
Yet if you read the books, attend the retreats, or listen to inspirational stories like Jess Ainscough’s (Jess sadly lost her battle. Jess you will be missed) the theme is the same.
Cancer is the greatest of teachers. It is the ultimate way to “unplug”. It is greater than the greatest thing you call great.
The thought of this excited me, even when contemplating death. I know it was a source of hope for loved ones because I heard it whispered behind curtains. It became an expectation of a revelation.
Yet nothing. And now I wonder if it had a lot to do with because I am not a woman.
Macho macho man
Don’t get me wrong. It is awesome to be a guy. Our bathroom lines are shorter. We can both tune out, and look interested at the same time. We have brains in two places0 that we use in different situations. That’s got to be good. Oh yeah, and we get to have sex with woman.
But when it comes to learning from life changing events, males at times can suck at it. A lifetime of “macho” conditioning made opening up to the lessons of chemo class as hard as the treatment itself. Yet because I am male, it didn’t seem to bother me too much. Things can be just as they used to be.
17 women and me
I should have cottoned on early. A year after my treatment finished I attended a post-cancer four-day retreat. You know the kind; out in nature, no TV, lots of sitting in circles.
There were 18 attendees, 17 were woman. Most were bald like me. All recovering from breast or cervical cancer. All wishing the creepy guy in the room wasn’t there to listen to their new insecurities.
Trust me ladies, me too.
Put that number ratio in a different context and 17 females and me infers male heaven. Post body-image defeating cancer? Awkward.
That should have told me about the males tendency to ‘harden up’ when confronted with the uncomfortable.
Jess’ article back then celebrated her five year “cancer-versary”. Apart from a nice play on words, five years is the point where doctors record on their CV that you are “cured”.
My five year cancer-versary was in 2012. I brushed it off as “just a number”. I didn’t need to recognise it because I had moved passed it. I had beaten it with my tough male traits of ‘I don’t give a shit’.
But it is not fair. Because to brush it off, is to forget the importance of the path traveled. And you can’t learn from what you won’t remember.
As it turns out it seems I do give a shit.
Cancer forced me to ‘unplug’ from big corporate and run my own business, recognize I am an entrepreneur, and by osmosis become one hell of a better father.
I just wish it hadn’t taken me over nine years. Somehow I think if I as a woman, it might not have taken so long.
*This post was inspired by a comment I wrote on a great article by Jessica Ainscough over on her Wellness Warrior blog. Sadly she lost her battle, and we are all the more poorer for it. *
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