Friday, November 17, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0359 - Shared Fate

One of the good things about being a cancer survivor is that other people who have received a cancer diagnosis or have a loved one just diagnosed feel comfortable talking to me about my experiences. I can honestly say this is a tremendous honour. I value being able to help another person as they begin their journey and I am humbled that somehow my experiences can be of value to them.

I think I am also more aware of how cancer affects the lives of others. We all go about our daily lives, most of the time blissfully unaware of the worry and uncertainty felt by so many around us whose lives have been turned completely upside down by cancer. But when people know that we have been touched by cancer, there is an opportunity for them and an opportunity for me. These bonds of friendship and commisseration may be short lived, but they are incredibly intense and honest. The shared intimacy of a shared fate binds us together in ways that are difficult to convey unless you have experienced it yourself.

This shared fate is something I have experienced at other times in my life too. In fact, shared fate is the name of a book which was instrumental and incredibly helpful to my wife and me when we decided to adopt children. The idea, in that context, of the title was that there is something which links the adoptive parent with the birth parent. For the birth parent, it is the untimely nature of fertility. For the adoptive parent, it is the tragedy of infertility. Somehow, these two seemingly disparate experiences have the potential in open adoptions of creating a deep bond between birth and adoptive parents, all embodied in the child, the one who signifies both the tragedy and the treasure of adoption.

Similarly, when we share our experiences of cancer diagnosis, our trials and tribulations, and possibly our triumphs, we adopt one another into a very close circle of intimacy that others simply cannot fully appreciate the way we do. For me personally, it is as if the intensity of my own diagnosis and concern surfaces again with all the attendant emotion and uncertainty. The vulnerability is there again, resurfacing simply as a response to the story being shared with me.

I hope I never lose this sensitivity to others. I trust my experience with cancer will enable me to serve others similarly diagnosed for many years to come.

1 comment:

George, Group Admin said...

I am the moderator of a group of merkel cell cancer survivors, their family members, and others interested in MCC research.

I certainly understand your statement and comments about cancer support. We are a unique group of survivors in that MCC is a very rare cancer, such small numbers that no one wants to own the funding of research.

If you have a chance stop by the group and look at some of the members comments.