Lots of interesting comments and reaction to the whole subject of the language we use about cancer - thanks to everyone who's shared thoughts either in the blog comments or elsewhere. Having now listened to the longer World Service programme that Andrew gave us the link for - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01lf8vh - I don't think there's much I can add to the language debate at this stage. If it has interested you, then that is the thing to have a listen to - fascinating stuff.
Here, wedding excitement is reaching fever pitch - my son's last day as a single man! The house is busy with arrivals, deliveries, people coming and going with errands and jobs to tick off lists. Dear friends are pouring extravagant love into ensuring that everything is as perfect as it can be; that anything I was down to do practically is not simply covered, but more than covered, with amazing beauty and attention to detail. As the situation around my own health began to unfold - what is it now, 6 weeks ago? - my chief dread was that it would somehow spoil or upstage this precious wedding. But its effect seems to have been quite the reverse. I can't speak for Jono and Amy, or for the rest of the family; I shouldn't assume that it hasn't and isn't costing them an immense amount not to let my illness weigh negatively on things. But I can only say that it doesn't feel as if anything has been upstaged or spoiled. Quite the reverse. Whatever has come into our lives these last few weeks - though I'm certainly not pretending it's a visitor I or anyone in their right minds would choose- seems only to have made the wedding more precious, more joyful, more longed for, more celebratory.
I suppose this is perhaps another way in to the same question I was trying to tease out through asking questions about the language we often leap to when talking about cancer - and more, talking about the way in which cancer or any life threatening illness brings us up against the awareness of our own mortality. Of course it's natural to react to such a visitor as a terrorist! Of course it's natural to want to have a gun in your hand to point at him, to send him scurrying back out of the door through which he so rudely burst in. Of course the sight of him, the thought of him, is enough to fill you with so much fear that eliminating him is the only thing you can think about. Of course the first thing we want to do when he appears is fight him - or at the very least, escape from him.
However, for the first few weeks at least there are no guns available, and little choice but to sit down and wait in the terrain into which he has bewilderingly escorted you. But in the waiting, there is a choice. You can either sit paralysed with fear and anger, aware only of a monster threatening to take away everything you know and love. Or you can allow yourself to look at him.
And I have discovered that I want to look at him. I want to assert that this unexpected visitor might actually be something more than simply an aggressor. That this meeting even has gifts to offer, and I want to be open to them. I don't, actually, want to send him away without allowing myself to receive whatever his visit has to bring me. So far. . . in the midst of the shock and the horror and the wanting it all to go away .. . .there has been joy, depth, intensity of awareness, restoration of deep and precious friendships, a heightened sense of being fully alive, awe at the revelation of the connectedness that holds us in being, an overwhelming sense of the Love that I know as God. I wouldn't have wanted to miss those things.
After all, what's happening to me is far from unique. It's the one thing we know is universal. We all have to meet this visitor at some point - that's the one certainty we all share. My fragile hope that this is not his final visit to me is still burning, but whatever the outcome of that, he will pay me - and all of us - a final visit at some point. And when he does, the outcome can only go one way. If all I have done is fight against him, then my obituary will be a description of "losing my battle".
Believe me, I have no intentions of losing anything.