Opinion: Cancer’s indiscriminate touch

Lucas Misera

When my mom recently called and told me that doctors found cancer in my aunt, my initial reaction wasn’t sorrow.

Instead, I was angry.

My mind went back to the countless piano lessons I had with my aunt ­— a gift of music that still has an incalculable effect on my life — and the patience and kindness she showed in the process.

My mind also jumped to the fact that cancer didn’t care about that when it chose her. No. To cancer, she’s just another person in its haphazard path, and that recklessness is what left me frustrated. Cancer is a homewrecker – a callous thief, hell-bent on stealing the loved ones with whom we surround ourselves.

It’s persistent, too.

According to the American Cancer Society, “half of men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetimes.”

In 2016, a little over 10,000 of cases will be found in children under the age of 15, and 1,250 of those battles are expected be lost.

Cancer doesn’t see age. It doesn’t take into account your past, your future or how you plan to utilize the time between. It doesn’t stop for our safe spaces or acknowledge privilege. Race, socioeconomic status or political affiliation — it’s blind to it all.

Cancer is also blind to the fervor for life that it ignites in people.

Through Kent State’s Flashathon, an on-campus organization that raises money for Akron Children’s Hospital and its pediatric oncology unit, I’ve met four- and five-year-old cancer patients, whose toughness is tenfold a typical college student’s. A preschool-age kid with a smile plastered on their face — with no regard for the scientist-baffling disease that festers inside of them — is the epitome of grit.

Or take ex-North Carolina State University head basketball coach Jim Valvano, who passed from cancer, and his 1993 ESPY speech where he vowed that the disease “cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”

Whether interacting with cancer patients far younger than myself or listening to Valvano valiantly stand against the disease, it becomes clear where cancer fails: When it tries to induce grief, it inspires an impassioned fight. Where it casts its shadow of helplessness, countless gather in defiance.

It’s important to send a message to those fighting — my aunt, the Flashathon families, or someone you might know — that we refuse to let them run cancer’s gauntlet alone. Just as cancer unsystematically chooses its victims, we must indiscriminately offer support to those battling it.

Lucas Misera is the opinion editor, contact him at [email protected].