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Cancer Don’t Know Jack

My friend shared this comic on Twitter yesterday and I thought it did a good job of describing of my perceptions of cancer pre and post diagnosis.

I mean, it’s all hunky dory to have a “curable cancer,” until you learn the chances that it will be cured. Even if it is cured, you live your life in fear that it will return. Because let’s face it, a lot of the time when cancer comes back, it’s with a vengeance.

It’s with these thoughts that I, along with the rest of Canada, digest the news of the passing of Jack Layton. For those foreign readers who don’t follow Canadian politics in their spare time, he was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party. He was one of the “good guys” of politics. He and his party have always been the underdogs, but still led them to become Parliament’s official opposition in the face of the mighty Conservatives.

Layton was one of those people who practiced what he preached, meant even more by the importance of what he was preaching. He was incredibly energetic, persistent, and hopeful until the end. A vibrant personality, who until yesterday, I thought was vibrant enough to keep away from the final clutches of cancer.

When he stepped down as leader of the NDP last month because he was struck with cancer for a second time, I was devastated. Having just been discharged from the hospital, I knew all too well the look of a person being overcome by cancer. Even though I’ve never met Layton, it hit me hard. I lived in his riding in Toronto, saw him out at events, and was continually inspired by his dedication to other people. Why does cancer always go after the good guys?

For those like me, who find themselves particularly affected by his passing, I think it says a lot about cancer as a disease itself. It reminds me, as a cancer patient, that the disease does not discriminate. That it doesn’t matter how hard you want to live, and how much good you want to do, it can still cut your intentions short. It reminds those who’ve lost loved ones of a scenario they know all too well.

It is really hard to stay positive when I hear of people dying of cancer every day. I am always certain I will come out on the other side, but the “what ifs” start to litter my head when I hear of other patients passing.

If there is one thing I want to use this post to say, it’s that no one “loses their battle with cancer.” That implies that someone dying from the disease wasn’t a good enough fighter to win. And if there’s one thing I know, Jack Layton was a man who fought and fought hard. He didn’t lose anything to cancer, because he lived his life despite it.

I know it is imperative to keep my own hope and optimism as I travel this road, because being dragged down by the “what ifs” are far too much. If anything, I am happy to still have a road to walk on, and will do it with as much vigour as those, like Jack, who walked it before me.