It’s Daffodil Day again and all those daffodils have wafted a big ol’ bee in my bonnet. Every year, when it rolls around I find myself so agitated by the posts I see on my Facebook feed and this post is a very, very long time coming.
For those reading from afar, Daffodil Day is a day run by the Cancer Council of Australia to raise both awareness and money for life-saving cancer treatments. It comes around each August and it’s a great, vital initiative.
It’s completely right that the people we hear from the most on Daffodil Day are those who (or those whose family members) have been treated for any of the ever-growing list of cancers and have survived. They deserve to shout about it! Their survival is exactly what Daffodil Day is about. I really want to reassure you that I love reading those stories, I love hearing from those who have benefitted from all that fundraising – after all, fundraising can sometimes feel so far removed from the final product, especially when treatment can take so many years to be developed.
As many people (too many), know it’s an entirely different experience when you’re sitting on the other side of the fence. Out of my family members who have been diagnosed with cancer at some point, more of them have died than survived – most hard-hitting was the loss of my Dad, which I’ve spoken about many times on here.
I’ll tell you a little secret and I hope it’s a secret that will make you feel less alone if you have these thoughts too: sometimes, when I hear about advancements in finding a cure for a certain type of cancer, as I did just last night actually, I get almost … mad. Because great, it’s a whole 5 years late my dudes. Why should I care about a cure when it’s not going to save my Dad? It’s a childish thing to think, I think we can all agree on that, but it doesn’t make it any less real.
But we’re not in control of this life of ours or the life of anyone else we know for that matter and whether I like it or not, maybe not long from now, I’ll be the one deteriorating in a hospital bed waiting for a cure. Or maybe I won’t be because they’ve finally made enough progress to destroy a cancer before it grabs hold of us. It’s true that science is a little late for my Dad but it might not be late for the rest of us, thanks to initiatives like Daffodil Day.
Whether you believe in God (as I do), another higher power or none at all, I think something else we can all agree on is this lack of control. If we were in control, then none of us would be mourning our loved ones.
So, it’s the discourse around cancer that becomes unfettered on Daffodil Day which really pisses me off, for want of a better phrase.
You know the kinds of words that get thrown around: “He’s got so much to live for”, “I won the battle against cancer”, “She showed cancer what she was made of, she’s stronger than that disease”, “They had their family to fight for”.
Just the other night I read a story about a local boy ‘vowing’ to fight against cancer for the sake of his family.
It’s all said with the best of intentions; I think it’s actually supposed to be motivational. But for those of us on the other side of the fence (or at least for me and for a few people I’ve spoken to, please pipe up if you feel the same) those words hit all the wrong notes.
What those phrases tell me is that family wasn’t enough for my Dad to fight for, he wasn’t strong enough, he didn’t want to win the ‘battle’ against cancer and he didn’t have much to live for.
I know that this is not what anyone is intending when they say these words but still, I find it hard to listen to. Especially when the stories we hear on Daffodil Day are largely from survivors (not exclusively, I must add, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post) it can seem like the overwhelming message we’re hearing is that we weren’t enough for our loved ones to stick around. It’s easy, when you’re in the throes of grief, to believe that message, whether it’s intentional or not.
My suggestion? Let’s strip it back to what beating cancer is all about: great medical facilities; amazing staff who have enough pay, support and sleep; psychological, physiological, spiritual and social support for patients and family members and; finding cures.
I still want to hear survival stories but I want to hear stories about how our Daffodil Day money is facilitating that survival, even if it hurts that it’s too late for some. We have to acknowledge that we’re so out of our depth, no matter how much we love our families or our lives, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when cancer and death come for us. We have to stop pretending that it has anything to do with how much we want to live.
Want to support Cancer Research in Australia as a part of the Daffodil Day appeal? Here’s your link!