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 didn’t drink, had never taken drugs, was active in sports and had a loving wife. But I still 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 en-masse chemical poisoning, insomnia and frightening follow up scans and body issues.
But if you read the books, attend the retreats, or listen to inspirational stories like Jess Ainscough’s [Jess sadly lost her battle. Jess you are 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 places that we’re capable of using in different situations. That’s pretty great. 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. A lifetime of “macho” conditioning made opening up to the lessons of chemo class as hard as the treatment itself. But because I’m a man, 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 4 day retreat. You know the kind: out in nature, no TV, lots of sitting in circles.
There were 18 attendees; 17 were women. Most were bald like me. All were recovering from breast or cervical cancer. And all were wishing the creepy guy in the room wasn’t there to listen to their new insecurities.
Trust me ladies, me too.
Put that ratio in a different context: 17 females and me!
That should have told me all I needed to know about men’s tendency to ‘harden up’ when confronted with the uncomfortable.
Jess Ainscough celebrated her 5 year cancer-versary. Apart from a nice play on words, 5 years is the point where many cancer types, according to statistics, are “cured”.
My 5 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’s not fair.
Because to brush it off is to forget the importance of the path travelled. And you can’t learn from what you won’t remember.
So it turns out I do give a shit.
Cancer forced me to unplug from big corporate and became a trader, an entrepreneur and one hell of a better father.
I just wish it hadn’t taken me over six years.
Somehow I think if I as a woman, it might not have taken so long.