Clement Okoh is a cancer survivor, author, entrepreneur….and proud grandfather. Cancer Matters is sharing book excerpts of his personal journey, “OSONDU,", an inspiring story of hope.
Photo: Me with my oncologist, Dr. Syed Abbas Ali
Read part 1 here: OSONDU (PART 1)
OSONDU – Why Cancer Is Different (part 2)
I became a cancer survivor on Wednesday, March 15, 2017; the day I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Cancer is so different from anything else. People rarely say, “You have cancer.” People say, “You’re diagnosed with cancer.” The statement is so pretentious and magisterial; it feels like the first stage of an inquisition. You will suffer, and sooner or later, you will confess to some ungodly transgression. Oh, and of course, you will die.
With its symptoms, diagnosis, pain, inevitable progression, and death, cancer occupies a dark place in our psyche.
It’s impossible to forget the day you find out. Time slows, and everything comes into sharp focus. You hear better, you see better, and you think more clearly and about fewer things. Everything is quieter, and nothing else matters.
Before cancer, your future is distant, fuzzy, and uncertain with numerous choices and possibilities. Cancer reduces your depth of field and puts everything in sharp focus.
From the day you find out, everyone in your family is terminally ill, as are all your friends. Not just because you’ll all die sometime, but none of your relationships will outlive cancer, so they might as well have it. Diagnosis day is when you know how the end will come. You stop existing in the sea of other people and focus on your regrets. The end is no longer uncertain, and you count your life in months. You start consciously preparing for the end, and come to terms with your mortality.
Cancer is not as sudden as poison or a bullet. But unlike these, cancer in your genes can also kill your innocent children and rob everyone of their love and empathy. With cancer, you have more time to contemplate the inevitable, but it’s definite, and the slow death allows you time to drag everyone through the misery.
That’s why cancer is so different.
The idea of cancer as a diagnosis, the manner of communicating it to patient and family, and the resigned acceptance and finality is the cross every cancer patient must bear. It’s the greatest load and dictates every thought, every action, every instant.
Cancer is grim, surreal, and final. But therein lies the hope that faith and the human spirit can deliver miracles.
The human spirit transcends all darkness, and faith intervenes with blessed miracles as people do survive cancer. Most cancer patients live with their affliction, even as it brings them to terms with their own mortality and forces their limited future into sharper focus. You become a cancer survivor the day you are diagnosed. It’s important to realize this and find the tools to preserve your happiness and to protect those around you. You must find ways to protect your quality of life. It will help you with that miracle called survival.