January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition. My friend Izumi Kajimoto writes today’s post.
I am writing this on my mother’s 77th birthday – a mark she missed by thirty years. “Preventable cancer” is something you don’t want to hear to describe what killed your mother young. I didn’t waste time bitter that tests were available, but under-publicized, to have caught it in time for her. But I figured I owed it to knowledge and sense to get my first colonoscopy at age 25 (an uncle died of it too: I have it on both sides) and every five years since. Nothing is more exhilarating than having a hose crawling up your butt for an hour – then being told you don’t have cancer. I am one of the few lucky ones who had to quit smoking only once, and it was easy. Keeping the weight down, running a lot, I thought I was doing my bit to prove the preventability of something that wiped out a chunk of my family.
So yes, it was “Rats!” to be diagnosed with cervical cancer about a year ago.
I don’t believe in god, therefore I have respect for the unknowable. Crap happens. Crappy happened. Swift surgery was needed, it so happened to happen on my birthday. It was tough but I am in good shape and I would have to tell you of everything that changed: you wouldn’t know by looking or even hanging out with me for a couple of days. Cancer is on the inside, and works on your mind way before it seeps into anything else. This is compounded by something merciful or with a sick sense of humor that has caused a bunch of weird acute unrelated health issues to crop up every other month or so, as if to distract me from what most people are most scared of. I am nursing a collapsed lung at the moment, don’t ask. I hope THAT is all behind me, and soon I will be alone with my cancer, which does not hurt, keep me up at night nor does it prevent me from doing pretty much anything I want to do (a collapsed lung does all of these things). And if I am lucky, the cancer will also leave me alone someday.
I also respect history, so while I was born too early for the HPV vaccine I watched the Jets win the Super Bowl. You must revel in your own moments.
But it will be YOUR life, not mine, lived in missed opportunity if this cancer is visited upon generations for whom it is – damn those words again – A PREVENTABLE CANCER. There is no intelligent debate about this, would the sight and sound of me dying from this cancer shock you into recognition? But the only reason this could kill me is the straw I drew when I was born – who is going to regret that? How about the sight and sound of your child dying from cancer – a preventable cancer?
Izumi Kajimoto runs a small company in New York and does not suffer pessimists lightly.