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Speaking the Name of the Enemy – CANCER

By Susan Adcox

When I was growing up, a diagnosis of cancer carried a kind of shame. I remember my older relatives saying things like, “Well, you know, she has … cancer.” The voice would be dropped to an almost inaudible level on that last word. And they always left it wonderfully vague exactly where the cancer was located. Colon cancer became “stomach” cancer. Any type of gynecological cancer was “female” cancer. Developing a family history of cancer, as my family has had to do recently, is much harder than it should be, because of all the years when we didn’t talk about cancer.

People today are often guilty of over-sharing, but I am grateful that we are pulling the veil of secrecy and shame away from cancer. My daughter had colon cancer. It is, we all agree, the yuckiest kind of cancer, the one that no one really wants to talk about. Except us. Within about two days, we were over any finickiness on the topic of colon cancer. Today we can discuss the function of the intestines and dish out advice about preparing for a colonoscopy without a bit of a blush. And I loved it when one of my crazy running friends posted on Facebook: “I walked through a GIANT COLON! Awesome!”

Our local celebration of March as Colon Cancer Awareness Month prompted the giant colon. It was an inflatable brought in for the SCOPE run (Sprint for Colorectal Oncology Prevention and Education). If you like the SCOPE acronym, there’s more where that one came from. The colon cancer folks are nothing if not inventive.  A friend who is a colon cancer survivor runs in a T-shirt that says, “Half the guts, all the glory.” My personal favorite: “A colonoscopist is a doctor who puts in a hard day at the orifice.” I won’t mention some of the raunchier slogans I’ve seen attached to a “get your colonoscopy” message, but they are quite funny. Speaking of colonoscopies, when I scheduled my latest, I put it in my smart phone calendar, which prompted me to add “invitees.” Now there’s an invitation most of my friends would decline. Unless there is food involved.

Humor is also one of the ways in which my daughter and her children are handling her illness. Laurie will mention some task that she needs to do, but she doesn’t want to do, and she doesn’t have to do it, “Because I have CANCER.” The children joke about it, too. Admittedly, her children are all teenagers, and they have a penchant for the quirky and offbeat that some families lack. But I think speaking the name of the enemy has helped them cope. It’s not the C-word, or a tumor, or a mass, or a malignancy. It’s just cancer. It’s the enemy, but we don’t have to fight it in silence.

Read my earlier posts: 

Don’t Get Blindsided by Lynch Syndrome:

Do You Know What to Say to a Friend With Cancer? 

Information about colon cancer:

Colon Cancer Alliance: www.ccalliance.org

Fight Colon Cancer: www.fightcolorectalcancer.org

Hereditary Colon Cancer Takes Guts: www.hcctakesguts.org

Lynch Syndrome International: www.lynchcancers.com

Susan Adcox

Susan is the Grandparenting Expert on About.com. Visit her at https://grandparents.about.com.

Read more from Susan about her daughter’s struggle with cancer:

Do You Know What to Say to a Friend With Cancer?

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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