Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

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next week's column: Facing Fear Over Cancer


Something not very pleasant has tickled at the back of my brain for awhile, and I finally realized it was fear. Fear of unpleasantness. Fear of not nice things. It led me, after some unwanted self-analysis, to reach conclusions about myself that I’d rather deny.

Before we go further, it’s important for you to know that my Aunt Edna has brain cancer. So no: No puns, humorous asides, or cracking wise this time around.

Stay with me. This will all fit together, I hope, and not be as disjointed as my own thoughts.

A lot of people I know have faced personal fights against cancer lately, so it was perhaps more than coincidence that I was approached late last year to help with public relations for the Noble County Relay for Life. I wanted to say no, and anyone who knows about my life recently understands why: There just aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with all I’ve already committed myself to.

At least, everyone thinks they understand why.

I’ve been getting the articles out, and they seem to be going over fairly well. Still, I haven’t been able to get to any of the Relay meetings. On an unrelated note, I haven’t been to see my aunt for years, even after she was diagnosed. At least, I thought it was unrelated.

The Relay for Life is part of the American Cancer Society’s efforts to fight cancer and bring support to its victims. Does it affect you? Well, one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, so yes. But the Relay also remembers lost loved ones, and celebrates the lives of those who fought, and often survived. This is the 25th anniversary of that very worthy Relay effort, so it’s only right to take a moment and send you to Noble County’s Relay site:

Or to the one for the town of Albion, where you’ll find my name – one of my internet friends has already donated on my behalf:

Here’s the national website for the organization:

Yeah, I’ve repeated all that stuff several times, in press releases that I send out to anyone who might have anything to do with a media source, from here to the Oz Gazette. I’m pretty sure I mentioned that this is a big deal.

But there are never enough teams, or enough money, so go get involved. The annual relay is May 30-31 -- time’s wasting. If you’re not online contact recruitment chairperson Stacey Lang at (260) 894-1418, or get with the technology thing and e-mail NCRL committee chairman Ed Anderson at or

As for me? I used to tell people that I wasn’t worried about cancer, because all the males on mom’s side of the family keel over from heart attacks in their 50’s. That’s not very funny, considering my father also had a heart attack. But my own family has had its encounters with cancer, and my little joke brings a whole new meaning to the term gallows humor.

Now, why haven’t I gone to visit my aunt?

When I was a kid, my brother and I spent a lot of time at her house. We lived in the country, and she lived in the Big City (Kendallville) where there was more to do, and she had a son about our age. My dad was one of nine siblings, not including a tenth who died as an infant, and I would guess Aunt Edna was the one who lived closest and who we saw the most often. It’s pretty heartless of me, not coming around now and then.

But I’m scared.

Maybe not in the way you think – calling Dr. Freud – but there’s real fear there,
fear I didn’t recognize until after doing that introspection thing that I usually avoid at all costs.

Sometimes, after I write about being a firefighter, readers call me a hero and remark on how brave I am. Foolish readers. Bravery is doing something you’re scared of; a hero is someone who does something worthy and important that they don’t want to do, just because it’s right. Sometimes people are both heroes and brave, sometimes just one or the other, but I’m anything but either.

I’m not scared of fire. I’m scared of hospitals, sick people, and spiders. The only part of operating on the roof of a burning building that bothers me is the possibility of falling off the edge, so it’s more the all too human fear of heights than any he-man Rescue Me crapola.

Mortality scares me, but not my own. It’s especially true of anything that could be called nostalgic in my life; I haven’t visited the family homestead in Kentucky for decades, because I fear seeing it for what it is, instead of what I remember. I don’t want to see my relatives ill and aged – I want to remember them as they were, as I was. It’s cowardly, but fighting for the people who I don’t know is easier than facing those I do.

If you see me walking into any kind of medical facility (or a funeral home), then I’m being brave, although certainly not heroic. Now that I’ve thought back on it, I hope those who have not received visits from me – especially Aunt Edna -- will understand, at least a little, that it doesn’t mean I don’t care; it just means I can’t overcome my own weaknesses. Since I’ve never received a degree with the words “psy” in it, you’re all welcome to disagree with my diagnosis.

Whether I got it right or not, it’s not a confession I much wanted to make – especially to myself. No one likes to admit their own weaknesses, after all, but I suppose it’s time I did some growing up; maybe I’ll even overcome the spider thing, someday.

Meanwhile, no matter what our own personal demons, we could do worse than to plug away at it, helping out where we can.
Tags: column, family, new era, slightly off the mark

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