Today is World Cancer Day, a day to educate people about the disease; teach them how they can lower their own risk; explain ways to provide care and support to loved ones who contract the disease; and press governments and entities in positions of power to take action.
It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer, directly or indirectly. In my own family, my grandfather, two grandmothers, mother, and several aunts/uncles have or are battling the disease. I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinomas of the cervix a little over a decade ago.
Something unexpected happened when people found out about it. Although I had many great friends who supported me wholeheartedly, others were judgmental. Cervical cancer, after all, is most often spread by sex. All of a sudden, I was viewed as a loose woman – or at the very least, one with a sordid past, to be viewed askance.
At that time, I was not a practicing writer. And I have never been a poet, at all, ever. But the way cervical cancer victims are often treated surprised me so much that I wrote the following down one evening.
Scarlet Letter It used to be Cancer was a dirty word, A punishment. Spread by Some unknown sin, It was fairly reaped. Other afflictions Told of familiar sins, Judgement clearly due. Aids for the homo, STDs for the straight, a blazing, scarlet A. Rape or consent Or innocent, It’s all the same to some. You’re suffering’s the price Only the guilty would pay— Or so they say. Cancer’s not a dirty word Anymore — Saints can get it too. But don’t get one That can come from sex Even if yours did not. Today that letter May be invisible But they see it just the same.
I’m sharing it today not because it’s any good (I know it’s horrible – typing it out just now made me wince several times) but because I want to do my part to spread awareness and support.
The fact is that about 75% of all unvaccinated adults – even those who have had only one sex partner – get an HPV virus at some point. The virus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. There are several strains of the virus; not all of them cause cervical cancer. And, not all cervical cancer begins with HPV.
If you know anyone with cancer – ANY form of cancer – they need and deserve support, not judgment. If you’re unsure how to do that, check out cancer.org, cancer.net, cancer.gov, or worldcancerday.org.