On Survival

Though I don’t talk about it a whole lot from post to post–it is in the About Emptyeye page–I’m currently in remission from T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (I’m still about two months away from officially being able to call myself a “Cancer Survivor”, though if it hasn’t come back by now, knock on wood, it’s unlikely to). One of the things I occasionally struggle with from a psychological standpoint is “Why did I get through it?”, particularly when celebrities are brought down from various cancers before their time, with Patrick Swayze being the most recent one.

Somewhat strangely, I first became conscious of this after I had been in remission for nearly two years with the death of John “Earthquake” Tenta. I think that part of this was that John was a regular poster to the WrestleCrap forums before his passing (Despite being a pro wrestler himself–indeed, despite working a couple of the gimmicks that got inducted into WrestleCrap’s pages!–John very much loved the site and its administrator). Now, John Tenta was a huge man both figuratively and literally (He would note that his was a “natural” strength, meaning he stayed away from the steroids–“performance-enhancing drugs”, we’d call them today–that are so prevalent in pro wrestling (Whether anyone admits it or not)), and he had himself beaten cancer once. So when he relapsed, myself, and most of the WrestleCrap regulars, were certain that he could do it again. Even as his health declined, and one of the people caring for him made a post to the effect of “John isn’t doing too well” with the implication that he may not be long for this Earth, I remember thinking, “But…I got through cancer, and I’m some scrawny 22-year-old (At the time). Surely John Tenta, the mighty Earthquake, can beat it too…”

Of course, ultimately, he couldn’t. Which is not to say anything bad about John, nor indeed anyone else that succumbed to the disease. As Lance Armstrong noted in “It’s Not About the Bike“, cancer doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t care who you are or what your attitude is. As he put it, some of the most cheerful, hopeful, optimistic people die of the disease, while some of the most bitter and miserable people survive it (And believe me, I had some miserable moments going through treatment).

I’m not sure that I’ve ever entirely come to grips with this, honestly.


    • James on September 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Cancer is such a wild card — some have high survival rates, some have abysmal survival rtes (pancreatic cancer, like Patrick Swayze and Jody’s Dad had, has something like a 3% survival rate) and just about everyone has been touched by it in one way or the other.

    When I think back about the summer of your diagnosis, the whole incident didn’t seem real, as if I’d come back at Christmas and Marc would be the same old Marc, scrawny or not. Of course, that wasn’t quite how it happened.

    Now that life is “normal” again (if there is such a thing) it’s still puzzling to know what factors actually go into beating cancer. The medicine, of course but the attitude, the support and who knows what X-factors might be involved.

    This is why I always aim to cure cancer as soon as I can in Civilization 4 :)

    • emptyeye on September 24, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    That’s totally true. Factors may well go into surviving it besides just the type of cancer–I was apparently a good candidate to survive because I was 20 years old and otherwise healthy–but in all, it really does seem to be frighteningly random at times.

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