Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zombie Wars

I've often wondered why people have such an instinctual dread of cancer. It can't be simply because up till recent times it was pretty much always fatal. Tuberculosis, for instance, was just as much a death sentence and people didn't go around talking about it in whispers. My grandfather's first wife died in her 20s of consumption and from their letters I know they both knew she was doomed even before they got engaged. Everyone around her knew she had TB. Everyone was open about it; it was a fact of her life until she had no life left.

And I don't think cancer's basic horror is that it involves your own body turning traitor on you. Auto-immune diseases do that, too. So do infections. I remember a line from a Bill Cosby routine where he's recreating the scene when his mother took him to the doctor to see about getting his tonsils taken out. Doc says something like, "Kid, your tonsils are like sentries that're supposed to keep the bad stuff out. But in your case, they're fighting for the other side."

True, there is a mystery to cancer in that its cause is often so hard to trace. Otherwise perfectly healthy people (like me!) can pop up with it. It's not like you catch it from Aunt Martha at the family reunion-- in all due respect to an old lady I heard of, who kept the photo of a family member who'd died of melanoma securely wrapped in plastic, "Because it might be contagious."

But still, I don't think that's the font of the primal fear of cancer. I think it has to do with our dread and loathing of zombies.

Yes, zombies. Ever notice how our society's sick fascination with those monsters has grown along with our rising cancer statistics?

Anyway, I'm no expert on the Undead, but cancer cells and zombies have a lot in common. Both are mindless. Both have no "purpose" but to devour and assimilate the living. Both replicate themselves in fast and horrendous ways. Neither contribute to the good of the body (politic), but rather, feed on it and destroy it. And worst of all, both zombies and cancer cells are frighteningly difficult to kill.

Speaking seriously on cancer, I read someplace recently that that's what makes cancer, cancer. Ordinary helpful healthy body cells do their jobs then die off and are replaced. Cancer cells have mutated so they don't know it's time for them to die. They're so biologically brain dead, they don't even know they're damaging the body they infest from the word Go.

The idea of something mindless and destructive and horrendously hard to kill growing in you and taking over your system is inherently creepy. No wonder people have traditionally feared cancer and not wanted to mention its name. You don't want it to be true, and at the same time, you don't dare ignore it, unless you want your innards to be the physiological equivalent of those popular zombie-apocalypse films.

We are told on Very Good Authority (Wikipedia, right?) that the only way to destroy a zombie is by going after its brains before it goes after yours. Fighting cancer, we have a few more weapons, which is good, because this battle is real.

And I, tomorrow I'm engaging in front number two in my own zombie wars. We had the cutting-out campaign in late April; in the morning we begin the chemical warfare. I expect to be a bit battered before it's over this September: you have to expect to take a few hits when you're combatting the Undead. But fight I shall, and by God and St. George*, I expect to win.
*You'd think I'd invoke St. David, wouldn't you, if I'm going to invoke a saint at all. But St. David isn't known for his military prowess, and St. George is. Besides (should my fellow-Reformed object), I'm being more literary than religious. 'k?


Judy Draganjac said...

Just a reminder that you have fellow warriors fighting next to you! No chemotherapy this round for me, instead I continue the battle with the liver dragon instead. Seems It, Itself, is my foe in this battle. And soI must swallow more vitamins and hope the blood gets filtered properly before the beast eats it up. So together we fight zombe and dragon, both beasts with a bit of savvy, but we are equal to the challenge. Since we do have Lord Christ as King and liege, we are favored in The Fight.

Love and hugs.... J

whiskers said...

I am with you in spirit my dear, (cancer free as far as I know, and always have been, as far as I know), but standing with flashlight, pitchfork, shotgun, and flamethrower, ready to metaphorically speaking, whip some zombie/cancer tail. *hugs*