Whenever someone thinks of learning a second language, I am sure the thought of classes, apps, or books come to mind. I always wanted to learn further in French from high school or take up Spanish. The hand I was dealt though was both feet in the fire-fury to learn the cancer language. It’s a language no one really wants to learn but rather it’s forced upon you. Early on in the journey I started researching out the CA125 tests, differences between PET scans and CT scans, what the BRCA gene testing was all about and so on. I learned the word port and knew how to ask for one, thank you Jesus! Fist pump! I learned a multitude of medicines, names, functions, and dosages. I also learned how to research effectively and ask really good questions. My oncologist even said to me that he liked my line of thinking and where I went with things. I am sure he also rolled his eyes internally too when I would pull out my pages (yes plural) of questions.
No one ever asked me if I wanted to learn another language yet here I am today and I feel fluid in the language. I even shock or scare myself sometimes with what I have learned. I think I terrify our pediatrician. Although she obliged to my request to run a CBC w/Differential when I asked for one for one of the girls. Perhaps I give a glare of “don’t mess with me, I know what I am talking about,” or perhaps when she asked me about what spurred the haircut and my response was a shrug with, “cancer” as a reply she just ducked her head and agreed to the request. To be fair my girls are pretty healthy and we sometimes see the nurse practitioner and not always the actual pediatrician for her to not remember me sporting scarves.
The language is met with an overwhelming amount of analysis over everything. I have always been a “why” person and then when this new language was forced upon me I took the why questioning to a whole other level. Why this treatment? Why this test? What will that show? How will this improve my diagnosis? Why me? And the list is never ending. It’s learning to live with continuously asking why and always learning something new. Always tweaking or fine tuning things perhaps. I find that even in remission as I entered the clinical study for the next two years. There are days I gleefully look at my vegetables and then there are days I look at those vegetables while I am eating my 8 grams of fiber English muffin and think, “why didn’t I just chose to do the inhibitor over eating like this?”
With remission I think people believe the language settles down and you won’t use it as often. Yet there are always gentle reminders in the journey that it never really goes away. It’s not the same as remembering very little from French class in high school. This language, the cancer language, is like cattle branded into your side. It just won’t be forgotten. You’ll pull the language out to speak with a friend who was just diagnosed. You’ll pull it out for follow-up visits with the oncologist. You’ll pull it out when emotionally you are just not ok. You’ll pull it out when sharing your journey. It’ll be forever fluid once learned, second nature.
Resistance I believe surrounded me at the beginning. Then those around me started to catch up. My husband now can reference tests when he had no desire to learn the names at the beginning. Those around me learned the language, likely without ever realizing they were picking up a second language. I refused to reduce things down to calling them a simple blood test, nope that’s called a CA125, it’s got a name. When you go to war you strategize and learn everything you can about the enemy, cancer really is no different. You learn the language and you fight, it’s part of it. Game On!
Am I bitter for learning this language? Sometimes that answer is yes and sometimes that answer is no. I wouldn’t trade it for the world though. Through the language I have learned how to have more peace, to be humbled, to connect like never before, to L-I-V-E! There are gifts in the language unlike any other language out there. There is also hardship in that language, make no mistake on that. There is also a divine awareness, too.
Raise those glasses this evening to a language we never dreamed of learning, to continuously asking why, and to being well equipped with knowledge in the journey!