I wrote recently about my distaste for the word “battle” as used to describe a person’s life with cancer. There are obvious similarities: yes, I suppose you could say we’re fighting for our lives. But – um – does that mean that dying is the same as losing the battle? I’d rather think not.



I’ve decided that it’s more like a journey. You’ve left your humdrum normal life, and you’ve set sail on unknown dangerous seas. Nothing is familiar anymore. It’s scary, kids.



You have a goal: getting rid of the cancer. It’s possible. Other people have done it. You’re not completely alone: you have friends and supporters, and if you’re lucky (as I am), you also have a partner who loves you. You have doctors who help you chart your course. (My hematologist even has someone in her office who’s the “navigator” – planning treatment schedules, coordinating with other doctors’ offices, etc.)



Journeys have all kinds of endings, don’t they?



–         You make it to the end of the journey, but it’s not quite what you thought it would be. You don’t suddenly win the game. You realize, after what you’ve gone through, that you can never be sure of “tomorrow” again. You completed one journey, but now it turns out (in case you didn’t know) that life is just one damned journey after another.

–         You run into unexpected complications. You get nasty side effects. You catch a random virus from a stranger who sneezes on the back of your neck while you’re on the bus. Suddenly your seven-week journey is a ten-week journey, or a three-month journey.

–         You decide not to take the journey after all, or you begin and decide to turn back. What happens then? I suppose you hope for a miracle to pick you up and drop you at the finish line: you pray, or just dumbly hope, for an Act of God. (For me, this is a non-starter. God is not going to cook up any Acts of God for me, especially after the way I’ve talked about him.)



Journeys are strange and unpredictable. You do your very best, with the help you’re given, to make your way through unfamiliar and changing terrain. And you realize that you’re not really in control much of the time; it’s just out of your hands. Sometimes the end of the journey is way beyond any horizon you can imagine.



So get off your ass and pick up that One Ring and take it to Mount Doom.



Even if you don’t know the way.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

4 Responses to Journeys

  1. I often read that someone “fought [cancer] like a warrior.” (Joey Ramone, for one.) Not sure I would have that in me. I could imagine plugging along through the treatment and following Ann Lovejoy’s advice: Just do the next necessary thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: