We’ve all been there… the stage, waiting for the show to begin. Excitement as the lights flicker, the signal for us to prepare ourselves…find our row, comfy on in to our seats, and review the program. Anticipation quickens the heart, eyes scan the audience, as we settle in for what promises to be an entertaining evening. When friends or family are to be on stage, whether a first grade year-end concert or a Broadway show, the pride becomes multitudinous.
All The World’s a Stage (Shakespeare)
Staging, in the world of cancer, is a whole different beast. Those of us who have cancer, state our stage in writing, speaking, or correspondence; this neatly places our disease into some type of category for all to consider. Learning that you are a Stage II is scary but for those around you it may give them relief. Finding out your disease is a Stage IV is completely unnerving and will set your people into places we hate to see them go, never mind what it brings to ourselves.
There is no glamour or excitement in having your life medically staged and this is not the show that any of us want to open the curtain to. Labels have always been reprehensible to me, and yet essential, too. A conundrum for me! Yes, as a librarian and lover of order, I like things manageable, but I am reminded of my son struggling with learning disabilities as a young boy. When we narrowed his disability to dyslexia, we were able to focus in on how to best accommodate his learning process. Ideas came from this discovery and my son was able to “learn better”, as he put it. He also wanted to know why he was “stupid”. My point, labeling is a means to best understand (usually with a broad umbrella) a person, a place, a political view. A label or a staging does not define the person (as in “stupid”).
You are a 10!
The American Cancer Society has charts for different cancer stages; I have linked the melanoma skin cancer stages. I think all cancers have similar staging, though each is unique in its progression and treatment. When first diagnosed in 2015 as having Stage II melanoma, I think I may have looked at a gazillon online sites to read about Stage II. Did I think if I read enough of the same information and tables, that I would find one that would cure me?!!!!! The year 2017 brought another melanoma diagnosis and Stage III; this news was frightening, but the information was part of my script, my medical drama, and led me to a better medical plan.
We’ve all been there… the medical stage, waiting for the show to begin. Anxious now, knowing you have cancer or that a loved one does, and wanting to know that number, a piece of the prognosis. Will it be 0 (yes, there is a stage 0 in cancer) or 4, or somewhere in between? And then, there are subsets within those numbers! Remember, cancer staging doesn’t define you. It is a category, useful to your medical team, your family and friends, to you. That number gives everyone a sense about your cancer diagnosis, a way for the brain and the heart to make sense of something that is terrifying.
Yes, your cancer staging matters and remember, it is just one part of your life’s script. It’s not meant to direct your entire existence. Learn to live with your cancer information and use it to give yourself the best possible life. We are fortunate to live in a time where there is a plethora of medical options and scientific data. Incorporate your medical information into your life, be who you are, and live for today.
Keep it real and I will post ideas on how to manage staging and all the “stuff” whorling through our minds, whether cancer patient, caregiver, friends, or family. I’d love to hear your thoughts, too!
We can-cer vive!