THE BLOG

I Wish I Had Cancer

18/01/2017 16:44
Don Farrall via Getty Images

"I wish I had cancer. People wear pink ribbons for you and go on long walks. I wouldn't have to feel like a social ... I can't remember the word." (Julianne Moore's character Alice in the movie Still Alice, speaking about living with early onset Alzheimer's Disease).

I wish I had cancer.

I know of what I speak. My mother and mother-in-law both went to an early grave at cancer's hand.

I wish I had cancer. Not every day. Some days I don't. But some days I do.

Instead I have Ankylosing Spondylitis.

A.S. is a chronic, incurable, probably degenerative disease in the arthritis family affecting my spine, neck and other joints. It leaves me with daily flu-like fatigue.

I have had these symptoms sporadically from the age of 20. Every day since I was 27, my first year of marriage. I am 43 years old.

I wish I had cancer.

There is a strong correlation between A.S. and depression. I have been clinically depressed for several years.

A.S. is an autoimmune disease, which means treatment of it leaves my immune system very vulnerable. A cold that might affect a normal person slightly for two or three days may put me out of action for a week, be symptomatic for two weeks, and exhausted for a month.

There's a possibility that within a few years I'll be in a wheelchair. I am 43 years old.

I haven't played football - which I used to play two or three times a week - since I was 29.

I haven't played golf - which I played once a week for a while - since I was 29.

Several times a day I will experience intense pins and needles in my hands and feet, for no apparent reason. I may be speaking in public, in a meeting, playing with my kids, talking with someone when it happens.

I wish I had cancer.

Fortunately my job often enables me to shape life around my disease.

Still I have to let smaller, younger and older people than me shift a small stack of plastic chairs.
I am a 43 year old man.

Sex is painful, often impossible. And infrequent.

I wish I had cancer.

There are more people with A.S. than there are those with Lou Gehrig's disease and Multiple Sclerosis combined, but most people I speak to have never heard of it.

Half of my salary goes on medical bills.

I am a 43 year old man, and my foster son once offered to help me put on my socks.

Healthy people have told me that I have a victim mentality, that I am cursing myself, that I am lazy, that I am weak, that I should stop complaining, that I am not manly. Somebody who knew about my disease once wrote the laziness comment regarding physical activity in a job reference. I didn't get the job.

I wish I had cancer.

My wife has to watch this, and wonder where it is going.

My wife has to hear her husband say 'I wish I had cancer.'

Walking is most of the exercise that I can manage. If I walk the recommended amount for healthy weight maintenance in a day, my back, hips, ankles, knees will be in pain for days.

Long journeys are painful. Sleeping too long is painful. Walking too far is painful. Sitting is painful.

I wish I had cancer. Not every day. Today is a good day.

I am sitting with good coffee and good music, under a clear sky with a beautiful view. Today I am well. My pain level today would send most people to bed, but I have a life to live and today I can live it.

Today is a good day.

Sometime this week, I will wish I had cancer.

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