It Is Not A Marathon

Please, please don't tell families with a cancer diagnosis that, "It isn't a sprint, it's a marathon."



Dear Oncologists and Doctors,

Please, please don't tell families with a cancer diagnosis that, "It isn't a sprint, it's a marathon." I swear if I hear it one more time I will jab myself in the eye with a tongue depressor. I will imagine strangling you with your stethoscope. I will cry out in frustration, because if your child has not been diagnosed with cancer, you have no idea.

Peace and perspective do not come from trite, overused metaphors and analogies. It comes from honesty. From seeing this fight for what it is so that you can make peace with your new reality. Once that happens you can find some joy again, but it will never happen if you are just trying to make it to the end of the race.

That is the main fault in your metaphor--a marathon ends. You might not see the finish line, but you know it is there. This doesn't end. There are no water breaks and you cannot decide, "Screw it, I'm walking the rest of the way." There are no medals for finishers, just scars.

Even if your child makes it to remission, which is not guaranteed, there is no end. Reoccurrence is always hanging over your head. The increased chance of a different form of cancer haunts you. The long term effects of chemo--hearing problems, heart problems, reproductive issues-- they are all still there, and have to be dealt with.

No, dear doctors, this no marathon-- it is the Hunger Games. You and your child are fighting for their life, not a medal. You  know that there will be survivors, you just pray that your child is one of them. Even if you are one of the lucky ones and they make it out, neither of you will be the same. You will be scarred inside and out.

Once you accept that you can begin to move on and find your new normal. It hurts and you grieve your old life, you grieve the cancerless life your child had, and finally accept that acknowledging all possible outcomes is not the same as giving up. Then you can find firm footing to fight from. You can find new dreams, new hopes and work to keep the odds ever in your favor.

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