Cancer sucks. It’s completely impartial, affecting young and old alike, and it doesn’t just impact the person fighting the disease, but those around who witness the impact upon their loved one.
Unfortunately I’ve seen first hand what it can do, and it’s often terrifying, and not just for the patient. No matter how much people try to break the fear of cancer, it’s a fear that people find hard to shake. But cancer can be beaten; and it’s my belief that the right medical treatments, some holistic care and a bloody good dose of humour can all play a part in beating the bastard into retreat.
It’s not just the disease that patients have to deal with, but also the regimen of treatments that cancer patients have to endure too. They are complicated and their side-effects can be legion. People who have experience of this disease, (Sadly who doesn’t these days?), often speak of the battle that they have to fight not just against the disease itself, but the myriad of treatments that wreak havoc against the body.
Cancer patients are brave. I know some dislike the use of that word, but for me there is no alternative. You HAVE to be brave to deal with cancer. There’s no doubt in my mind that to endure a battle against chronic illness takes a special kind of soul, one determined to fight against the cells daring to multiply and rally against the caustic treatments coursing through the veins.
Readers of this blog will know only too well of my beloved friend Dionne Walker (aka DeeDee Fadoodle in SL) who lost her battle against cancer five years ago. She did as much as she could to beat the Breast Cancer that had spread into her liver, bones and brain, but in the end the fucking thing won out. (Her blog is still live, you can read it here)
The five years that have passed since she died have flown by, but every single day I’m reminded of her. Not just by the pictures of her that I have dotted around my home, but by little things that I hear every day that raise smiles as I think of her and how she would react. Whenever I hear music by Faithless for example, she’s there. I have her Black Obsidian crystal ball, and each time I pass it she’s there; even a scent or a scene in a film or a written passage on a page can trigger a memory.
You know, for a long time I was cross that she’d gone, and also that she’s never come back and said “Hi”. I know that sounds very strange, but I always thought if anyone was going to come back and pay me a visit it would be Dee. (Knowing her, she’d probably jump up in front of me whilst I was taking a dump. Five years of enduring toilet visits anticipating a visit from beyond the grave fair messes with your bowels let me tell you!)
Grief is a strange thing. After the initial shock and raw pain there does come a sort of resolution, of acceptance that someone has gone and they aren’t going to come back. But what I am trying to say is that I have realised that they never, ever go away. We are the ones left behind, the receptacles if you will, of loving memories and thoughts and daydreams in which our loved ones can (for want of a better phrase) live again. And believe me, in my dreams and imagination she has many, many times.
And she will continue to forever more, until I pop my clogs and wander over to the other side and seek her out and kick her ass for being gone, and then collapse in a fit of giggles because I’m back with my buddy.
Five years is a long time that she’s been physically gone, but in my mind she never, ever left.
I love you Dionne xxx
I interviewed Dee back in the day for some thoughts on Second Life and using it as a way for managing and dealing with illness. Here are her answers from back then, exactly how she e-mailed them to me. You’ll note she used to call me ‘O’toole’ ; even though we were friends in real life she always used to address my emails in this way once we’d both got into SL.
These be my answers.. my poor old brain struggled a bit, so I hope they’re ok!
How do you usually spend your time in SL?
Spending money on clothes, hair, and accessories! It’s a great distraction!
When I’ve spent money, I’ll put on my new glad-rags, go to a bar (or more recently, ice skating!), with my SL buddies, and shake my thang!
And while I haven’t been well enough to go out to a real life bar, with my real life friends, I’ve at least been able to go to an SL bar with them!
How has SL helped you deal with your cancer in RL?
There are cancer support groups in SL, which I’ve only been to a couple of times. The one I’ve been to does seem like an good place to chat about what’s happening, and it can be good to share how I feel about cancer and the ways it affects me, with others who’re going through similar things.
Real life support groups aren’t really my ‘thing’, and I find it easier to talk about cancer-related issues in an ‘online setting’.
But really, the main way SL has helped me, is by providing a distraction from real life. It’s good to escape into SL, and away from RL for a while.
I recently had surgery to remove a secondary brain tumour (I was initally diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2005. And later with liver, bone, and now brain metastasies), and haven’t been able to do much in RL, while I’ve been recovering from the op. So SL’s been good at keeping me occupied, while I haven’t been able to do much else.
How supportive have you found SL residents when you have told them about your RL diagnosis?
I don’t tend to tell people (it’s not really the kind of thing you announce, when you walk up to someone!), but a brief summary of my RL diagnosis is in my profile. There have been a few people send me really kind, supportive messages.
What is the most precious item in your inventory?
Ooh, I love my MAC laptop. But I also have a Shamanic drum, which actually drums.. I really like that too.
What’s the worst thing about SL?
For me, personally, crashes and bugs, which seem to be getting worse and worse. It’s driving me insane, lately.
What’s your funniest SL sex story?
I don’t really have one! I’ve never got into the whole SL sex thing. Although it did make me chuckle when I ended up in ‘Sherwood Forest’, and stumbled across a **** a duck pose!
How do you think SL can best serve it’s users who have RL medical issues?
I feel that support groups in SL have great potential to be a valuable resource and support to people with a variety of RL medical issues.
They enable people from all over the world to come together and discuss their illness, treatments, exchange information, and raise awareness.
RL support groups, whilst they can be invaluable for support, can be somewhat limited to a much smaller group of people, with not such a wide scope of experience.
I feel that both RL and SL groups can play an important part in the lives of people with many illness’.
What’s the one thing that you would change about SL if you could?
Less bugs and less crashes.. especially when I’m trying to buy new goodies, or get to a party!