Facing the reality of cancer
When my daughter Megan was dying of terminal cancer, she was adamant that at her funeral no-one should talk about her brave fight or use phrases such as ‘she died after a long battle with cancer’.
This is not a battle, she told me. I am dying.
Those were words that I did not wish to hear. I just wanted her to do the impossible and get better. But Megan was right. She was a realist. She was dying and there was nothing that could be done about it. Megan was a veterinary surgeon. She knew about diseases. She had treated many animals with cancer. She had a form of cancer known as cancer of unknown primary (CUP) which means that the primary tumour cannot be traced and therefore treatment cannot be targeted at the tumour as is usually the case. Megan, a fit and healthy young woman of 32, died within four months of becoming ill.
The cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support has just said that the perceived need to ‘fight’ cancer and remain positive is having a negative effect on people living with the disease. As was reported in The Guardian, it prevents honest conversations about dying from taking place. You can read more about it here.
Megan’s poem about cancer
Megan was also a poet. A few weeks before she died she wrote a poem. This is what she wrote.
Live and Let Live
(in which Megan speaks to her tumour)
As I am one of God’s children, you must also be.
You find your niche according to His law, somewhere in me.
And, as Darwin predicted, you will struggle and strive
And I shall endeavour to keep us both alive.
I don’t suggest it’s your fault, though neither is it mine,
That some mutation of your code made you thus malign.
But, given that you are my flesh, my blood, my own,
Not so very different from my precious baby son,
Supposing that you crept, spider-like, back into your hole.
I should not wish you harm for harm’s sake,
I’d let you live, I’d coexist with you, each in our quiet way.
No need for enmity or spite. It’s not a war.
I have published some of Megan’s poetry in a book about her life. Some of it can be seen on this website and the whole collection is available in Wordsmith: The Gift of a Soul.