Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Incurable, but treatable

The news that Elizabeth Edwards’s cancer has returned has given me a new soundbite for describing Dan’s cancer – “incurable, but treatable.”

An unwieldly phrase, but accurate. Basically, it means she’s living with cancer. Cancer has moved into her house, and it isn’t leaving any time soon. When Granny goes round the bend and starts running down the highway in her nightie, you generally don’t shoot her. You sigh, clean out the guest room, hire a night nurse, and keep an eye on her meds. You make accommodations and adjust your expectations to life with Crazy Granny.

Some cancers are like living with Crazy Granny. You don’t stop living just because Crazy Granny has moved in. Crazy Granny requires time and attention and doing things you didn’t have to do before, but shooting her (or yourself) is not an option.

Sometimes Crazy Granny even teaches you some stuff. To take care of Crazy Granny, you have to do all these things you’ve never done before. Not to say life wasn’t a lot easier before Crazy Granny showed up, but living with her teaches you that you can do damn near anything you have to do.

To anyone who has tut-tutted that Elizabeth Edwards should pull the shades and “focus on her health,” I say, get bent. Either you’ve got bigger problems with women taking charge of their own lives, or you’re someone who gets kicks out of suffering. Both are really sad.

Elizabeth Edwards (and John) get mad, outrageous props for letting Crazy Granny Cancer not slow them down. They know better than anyone else just how much work it's going to take to keep her in the guest room and off the highway.