Your reaction is way over the top. It’s just a call from a ‘patient advocate’ who introduces herself with a very cheery voice. But when she announces that she’s been assigned to you by the American Cancer Society, something snaps inside. You want to tell her that she’s got the wrong person. You want nothing to do with her organization. The Cancer Society can stick to anti-smoking campaigns; you don’t need their solace and support.
The earnest advocate goes into her pitch, but you’re hardly listening. You’re somewhere else, recalling how you’ve never liked the Cancer Society’s menacing emblem, that blood-red sword. It always makes you think of the fiery blade of the Cherubim stationed at the gates of Eden to prevent anyone from gaining access to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24). And then, from the depths of irrationality, you imagine that this sweet-voiced, enquiring woman is calling to take your measurements for a death shroud. That’s what the Cancer Society really does for you in the end, doesn’t it?
Your heart is pounding and it’s less than two minutes into the phone call. A little boy’s voice inside you calls out: ‘I don’t want to be a member of the Cancer Club, and I won’t pay your dues!” Then the warrior in you wants to speak, telling her you will not be defeated by this plundering bit of creation gone wrong that lurks within. You want to make it clear that your purpose is not just to survive this cancer, you plan to thrive and live a very long life after it’s been eliminated.
In reality, all you do is politely tell your caller, when she gives you the chance, that you’re about to sit down to dinner. You promise that you’ll call her back at a more convenient time. But you’re shaking when you end the call. You wonder what has gotten into you, what’s behind this animal rise of emotion?
Later, it comes to you. It’s simply this: you are not your cancer, and you won’t allow this squalid mass to define you. Cancer may be what you have for the moment, but it’s not who you are — not now, and not for your life’s duration. You may be a patient, but you won’t be a victim. You have a disease, but it will not become your identity.
So, you’ll call the lady back and you’ll let her advocate for you. She’s doing a good thing, you’re certain. And you need not worry that swords or shrouds or intimations of defeat will come up in the next conversation you have with her. She’ll never know what that previous brief call had set off in you. And, she’ll never know that she’s already done a good piece of advocacy on your behalf: helping you sort out your cancer and your self.