Cancer and the battle against patriarchal arrogance and injustice

Image: Grab ’em by the patriarchy.

Yesterday I had the most incredible meeting with the head of Oncology who categorically denied that Chemo-fog or Chemo-brain exists and that I was projecting my subconscious anxieties onto Chemotherapy. He further told me that he had chosen to withhold the information about further Chemotherapy because he felt I would back out of Chemotherapy completely and refuse to complete the course I’ve just finished. He said that whilst his colleague believes in Chemo-brain, he does not. I pointed out to him that I had never hinted of suggested to anyone that I would not complete the Chemotherapy, without which I would be dead.

My niece accompanied me to the meeting in which I demanded a break, which I was initially offered and which was withdrawn, to recover from the first round or R-chop Chemotherapy which had dramatically affected my cognitive abilities and which is a well documented phenomenon. His denial that it even exists was shocking and my family have witnessed the deterioration in my ability to function, in which I have had to stop driving as I nearly wrecked my car early on in the treatment process.

I have never in my life wanted to batter someone for so completely dismissing my lived experience as psychological projections, making me feel like a pathetic drama queen.

This is the patriarchal, ‘I know best’, arrogant authoritarian mindset writ large and he talked down to and patronised us throughout the meeting. It is exactly that mindset that put my life in danger early on in Chemotherapy and which eroded my faith in the system making me feel like a dehumanised lump of meat who should just put up and shut up.

I naively thought this kind of attitude was dead and buried in the medical world with the growth and progress that has been made in patient care. It is this arrogance, disbelief and lack of support which as made the experience of Chemotherapy so much worse than it need have been. In fact it is exactly this authoritarian, patriarchal, arrogance that is rife in government. It is we, the people, who’ve advanced and become more person centred and aware, whilst it is those in positions of authority within the establishment who are doing incalculable harm to society and the world.

Therein lies the justification for the DWP sanctions regime and the dehumanising treatment of so many leading to despair and the deaths of so many people.

It is not damned well good enough and far from projecting my subconscious anxieties onto the situation, I am hyper aware and enraged by it. It is precisely such dehumanising attitudes that I battled against in all my years as a Community and Youth Worker. It is rotten to the core and as Tony Benn said, “Every single generation has to fight the same battles again and again and again. There’s no final victory. And there’s no final defeat. The truth is that this country and world have been run by rich and powerful men from the beginning of time. It is very important to keep optimism. I think progress has been made by two flames that have always been burning in the human heart: the flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world.” [1]

Patriarchy is a disease and a threat to the lives of ordinary people and it is alive and well and it must be fought at every level where we encounter it and I will not allow some arrogant popinjay to put my life at risk in circumstances which are already life threatening.

I never anticipated that fighting cancer would entail fighting arrogance and injustice, but so be it, I am no stranger to that battle. And, yes, I am taking a months break before starting the next round of chemotherapy because I damned well need it and if there is a risk, it is my risk to take and no one else’s. In fact, he admitted at the end of the meeting that he had no idea if the cancer was already in my brain or not or if it ever would be, but it took 45 minutes of us being talked at to get there and he complained that we’d taken up too much of his time.

Keith Lindsay-Cameron. 28 November 2020.


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