Sunday, September 11, 2016

My 9/11 Shows That Cancer Patients Aren't Saints

I finally got a hold of my mom on the telephone on Sept. 11, 2001, just hours before I was supposed to receive my penultimate dose of radiation to treat my bone cancer. After nearly a year of treatment, I only had two days left. My mom said the National Institutes of Health was closed and I couldn't get radiation that afternoon. The NIH would probably be closed the next day, too, my mom said. Instead of feeling sadness for my country and for the thousands of Americans who were injured or killed, I felt anger that I would have to wait to call myself "cancer-free."

Cancer patients are often portrayed in the media and on television as physically and psychologically weak. But we aren't all weak, and even if we are some of the time, we aren't weak all of the time. Cancer patients are also often portrayed as saints, and that is equally inaccurate. As I sat on my couch watching CNN and eating cherry Twizzlers and stewing over having to wait two extra days to move on with my life, I was far from acting like a saint.

Today I'm thinking a little bit about cherry Twizzlers and a good bit about tomorrow's Redskins game. And I'm damn sure thinking about those who suffered and died on 9/11 and everyone else who have had to endure because of the attacks.

Visit my Cancerslayer table at this year's CureFest for Childhood Cancer event next Sunday afternoon, September 18, on the National Mall. (Photo, below: my Cancerslayer table at the 2015 CureFest event.)

See me in The Story Collider's next D.C. show on Thursday, September 29, at Busboys and Poets. The Story Collider is a show in which storytellers tell personal stories about the deeply human side of science.