Tempting fate



I don’t believe in a God of Cancer, since I’m still not convinced about a God of Everything Else. I concede there may be Cancer Faeries, or Gnomes or Sprites, because there are moments that seem guided by some outside force other than my oncologist. The mysterious vertigo that led to the discovery of three tiny brain tumours is one example.

A less celebratory example: I don’t talk much about the mouth sores some patients get, because I don’t get them. Yet there I was talking about these painful little dots last week, telling three different people that I have been spared. Within days, mouth sores appeared on my tongue and inside my cheeks. Eating is tough; so is talking. So, I get it Cancer Elves. I will no longer tempt you. I will keep my head down and my mouth shut. Unless that pushes the sores up against a tooth, in which case I will remain slack-jawed.

I do have certain superstitions and I suspect I am not alone among the cancerous. These are small things I do each time I check into hospital, from the practical (my own toilet paper roll from home) to the less logical (I won’t wear hospital scrubs).

The most obvious rule is that I never say “Damn, we have really got this disease BEAT!” Especially before a CT scan.

I don’t talk about retirement planning.

I think happy thoughts during an MRI, so I might give the tumour-fighting residue one last spark of strength.

I often cry during my first night in hospital, especially if I feel I have been a mediocre dad lately.

There are a few new superstitions I am thinking of adopting, such as : No walking under a ladder while receiving chemotherapy.

Just as actors refuse to utter the name of Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play” inside a theatre, I wouldn’t say “MacBeth” inside an operating theatre.

And I will never look into a mirror and say “Tumour Man” five times out loud.


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