Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bad Neighbors

Cancer cells are like bad neighbors who do not abide by the rules. That is one of the things I used to tell new cancer patients when I was an oncology nurse. I'll explain what I mean.

Rule #1 is that cells are supposed to serve a purpose. Lung cells are supposed to contribute to your ability to breathe. Skin cells are supposed to work together to keep you covered. Cancer cells just don't feel obligated to contribute in any way. They are happy enough to sit around and use up your body's resources for their own satisfaction. It's kind of like an unwelcome neighbor coming in and eating all the food in your kitchen but not lifting a finger to clean up. That is just rude.

Rule #2 is that cells should not reproduce to the point of overcrowding. Cancer cells just keep on reproducing. If you lived in an apartment and the neighbors across the hall lived in their own little two bedroom apartment, you might agree they should not have 70 children. Cancer cells just don't really seem to care if it is crowded, even if it is to the point of causing damage to the apartment walls, so to speak. They don't care if they knock down their own walls and spill into your apartment. That is NOT neighborly.

Rule #3 is that cells are supposed to stay in their own yard. That is, breast cells are meant to stay in the breast. They aren't supposed to go lounging around in the lungs as that is not their yard. Colon cells aren't welcome in the liver but sometimes they go to that yard and just set up camp all over the place. Again, rude!

OK, I realize that I am personifying cancer cells. They aren't their own beings; they are actually just our own cells that have become malformed through faulty mutations.  However, some believe imagery is helpful not only to understand this process but also to put a stop to it.


So, how do you put a stop to bad neighbors? Any suggestions where to take this imagery from here? I guess we could call the cops (doctors) to come help with the eviction. That seems reasonable. Any better ideas?

Cancer has been on my mind because we just found out my Mom has some "bad neighbors" and she's got to do some evicting of her own. We have a lot of reasons to expect a good outcome but I'm just upset that she has to deal with cancer at all. She is an incredible woman who has shown her strength in both little and big ways. I know she can handle this. I just didn't want her to have to.

Cancer is a terrible neighbor.