Lose More Slowly

I guess that cancer changes our perspectives forever. It becomes the prism through which we view everything else.

I was reading an article in this month's Vanity Fair about film noir. They quote a couple of lines from the film Out of the Past from 1947. Jane Greer asks Robert Mitchum, "Is there any way to win?"

Mitchum's reply: "There's a way to lose more slowly."

Before, I probably would have thought that was just a cool, tough-guy line, cynical and world-weary. When I read it this time, I thought it perfectly summed up the way most of us approach cancer.

How many times have we heard something like that from our doctors or nurses? "We can't cure you, but we'll try to give you as much time as we can." The thought may be the same, but somehow it sounds better coming from Robert Mitchum. But that's really what we're all trying to do: Lose more slowly. Hold off the Beast for as long as we can.

But I have to admit that I don't much like the word "lose." You hear it a lot. I say it. Someone "lost" their battle with cancer. It makes it sound like they failed somehow. They weren't up to the fight. I don't buy it. Maybe I just don't want to ever think that the cancer "won." That certainly doesn't seem right.

So I guess Mitchum was right. Whatever words we use, however we want to say it, we all want this process to go more slowly. Me, I intend to make the cancer work to try to get me. I want to make it as hard as possible. I don't intend to go easily.

But one last thing. I do wish that I looked as good in a hat as all those guys in the noir films.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Oh Leroy,

The hat is all attitude. Just as some people who switch from glasses to contact lenses forever look "uncovered" or "exposed" you have to adjust your attitude to look good in a hat. :)

Sent by Katie | 3:03 PM | 2-15-2007

Leroy ~ my philosophy is that if we can stay alive long enough there will be something that is discovered to help us in our fight. I loved your comment I don't intend to go easily. May that be everyone's motto out here that is fighting cancer.

Have we heard anything from Ruth? I've been thinking of her constantly.

And one last thing: Who says you DON'T look as good in a hat as Mitchum?? :o)

Sent by Geneva | 3:04 PM | 2-15-2007

Leroy,

I often look back to the five years of my companion's victorious and courageous debate with her illness. We had discussed from the beginning what possibilities lie ahead. The average prognosis for her type of cancer was about two years at the most. Together we viewed the ups and downs to come as more of a process in proving the disease wrong and reclaiming her life in spite of the disease. For over five years this was how it was. After five rounds of chemo through those years, surgeries, biopsies, and radiation treatment, she would exclaim the she "just showed that disease a thing or two once again." Her courage was astounding each time she reclaimed her life, although the frightened child within clung to me often, looking for shelter from the unknown world she had been thrown into. Still, when her time came to depart this earth, when the suffering became unbearable, she did not refer to her disease as a battle she was losing. She did ask me frequently in the last weeks if it were time for her to go "home." Two days before she silently slipped into a coma, she held my hand and feebly uttered, "I am ready to go home now. I love you." She was my hero, with more courage in her spirit than twenty warriors in a battle. You, Leroy, and so many of the others who write on your blog, are also courageous explorers of unknown realms of life. Each day brings a new reclaiming of your lives. There is victory in each day spent awaiting results, going through treatment and surgery, and in the often overwhelming thought of knowing the disease lies within. The courage begins when acceptance arrives. By the sounds of your writers and yourself, you are all heroes in life and living, and in the eyes of those you have blessed in sharing your life with.

Sent by Robin Waters | 3:22 PM | 2-15-2007

Leroy: I LOVE that line "Lose more slowly"! That is so true for everyone! And put the HAT on - YOU LOOK GOOD and don't say you don't!

Sent by Joan | 3:43 PM | 2-15-2007

Right this moment, whether quickly or slowly, everyone alive is "losing" the battle to live forever. Most people just haven't yet had that shocking realization — unless they have cancer or some other terminal disease. I read the obituaries every morning. All too often, especially when the accompanying photograph is of a young or middle-aged person, the cause of death is listed as cancer. I've come to hate the line that invariably comes in the first paragraph: "He/she died after a long (or short) courageous battle with cancer." First, the word "courageous" puts me off, even though it is probably true. But really — is it always an act of courage to fight to stay alive, or just human nature? Wouldn't anyone do the same? And then, like you, I dislike the word "lose" in this context. Death comes to everyone — so are we all just a bunch of losers? Why not just list the cause of death and then focus on positive aspects of the person's life? Maybe I just hate the whole metaphor of battling "Death the Enemy." I prefer to think of what we're doing as embracing Life, treasuring it, delighting in it, contributing to it — for as long as possible. As slowly as possible?

Sent by Doris | 3:45 PM | 2-15-2007

Not on the subject today, but have you heard how Ruth is doing? We are all praying for her.... I sincerely hope she got a good report. Blessings her way!!!

Sent by Patti | 4:16 PM | 2-15-2007

last night looking into the mirror i thought i saw an alien! it was moi!!!! along with being completely hairless the past 4 months, i am now missing my eyebrows, eyelashes and my fingernails are turning black, along with being breastless with scars. i was convinced i looked like that alien from roswell! and it was VALENTINE'S DAY.... i know vanity is striking my image on the most romantic day of the year and my lack of hormones was most likely doing a number on my emotions ... but i completely lost it when i hopped into bed last night and my husband told me how beautiful i was on VALENTINE'S DAY.... cancer can take away my outward beauty but will never steal my soul!!!

Sent by marianne dalton | 4:22 PM | 2-15-2007

I also despise using the terminology "my" tumor. There's nothing about this tumor that has anything to do with me or who I really am. Denial? Perhaps.

Sent by Jordis | 4:26 PM | 2-15-2007

Leroy,

First of all, is there any news about Ruth? I think all of us are rooting for her as well as for you.

I don't know about the winning and losing business. Maybe that's not a good way to view cancer or anything that threatens to kill you. Most people do use those terms, but as a retired therapist and hospice volunteer, I know that particularly with cancer death, most people get to a place where they are ready to go. Until that time comes, I think it's good to try to live with gusto!

Sent by Diana Kitch | 4:27 PM | 2-15-2007

In my mind you must be the handsomest man to ever wear a hat! Leroy, thank you for your faith and your toughness. You are the best advocate any of us could ever wish for!

Sent by Shawna Ramsey | 4:29 PM | 2-15-2007

Keep trying on hats until you find the one that was made for you Leroy, and change your photo on the blog when you do! And yes, to spinning out all the good time we can manage, and yes as well to letting go to grab hold of the next rung (whatever that turns out to be) when the cost of staying is higher than the cost of taking flight.

With delight for this journey we share!

Sent by Sarah | 4:30 PM | 2-15-2007

I have a loathing for the battle metaphors used to describe people with cancer. I remember seeing such a description on a memorial bench about a man who died "after a courageous battle." And that means cancer. Nobody is said to battle with diabetes or a heart condition.

I want my bench to say something about how I LIVED and not just about how I died.

I want something like ... "In memory of JJ, a darned good snogger!"

I am working on the rest of it but I think that's a good start!

Sent by JJ | 7:21 PM | 2-16-2007

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

...

(continued : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_not_go_gentle_into_that_good_night)

- Dylan Thomas

Sent by John Pappas | 6:12 PM | 2-19-2007

"But I have to admit that I don't much like the word "lose." You hear it a lot. I say it. Someone "lost" their battle with cancer. It makes it sound like they failed somehow. They weren't up to the fight. I don't buy it. Maybe I just don't want to ever think that the cancer "won." That certainly doesn't seem right."

THANK YOU. My father died of cancer when I was 16, and even then, I felt that American society somehow valued those who "won" more than those who "lost", as though there was some characteristic that was lacking in the people who died, or that if they had tried a little harder they would have lived. The Livestrong campaign, valuable as it is, I think also contributed to this phenomenon. Why should it be more heroic to live than to die?

There are a lot of "what ifs" here, but I never question my fathers strength, love for his family, or ability to cope with anything he went through. He died young at 48, but he isn't less special than those who don't. And he never "gave up" on anything.

Sent by Hannah | 6:17 PM | 2-21-2007

About