Saturday, 12 April 2014

What is Cancer?

Cancer happens when cells divide uncontrollably and are able to invade other tissues. Malignant cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph systems. This is known as metastasis, a word no cancer patient wants to hear. There are over 200 known cancers and more being discovered. Most cancers are named for the organ where they started or after the type of cell. Not all tumours are cancerous, benign tumours do not invade tissues and they do not spread.
All cancers begin in the basic unit of life, cells. Typically, cells grow and divide to produce more cells, and when they are damaged or die, they are replaced with new healthy cells. Sometimes though cells go out of control and they produce mutations that affect normal cell growth and division, they do not die but form a mass of tissue called a tumor.
There are four main categories in which cancer types can be grouped in. Myeloma and Lymphoma begins in the cells of the immune system. Central nervous system cancers begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Carcinoma begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs, subtypes are adenocarcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Sarcoma begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. And finally Leukemia, cancer that starts in blood forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal cells to be produced and enter the blood. Immune system cells come from the bone marrow as well, that's incongruous.
The causes of cancer are diverse and complex. I seemed healthy. There was no history of cancer in the family. At the chemo ward I have seen healthy looking young men go on the treatment. I couldn't fathom being the face of cancer when I was first diagnosed, but seeing these young men and women get cancer, I know no one's exempt.
Your immune system is what you have to look after when you get cancer and when you don't as a preventative move. What is the immune system? It is a complex network of cells, organs, tissues, and the substances they make that help the body fight infections and diseases. They include white blood cells and tissues and organs of the lymph system, such as the thymus, tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and lymph vessels. They are your security guards. They ward off the bad things you put in your bodies. When your immune system fails to do its job, you get sick, or worse, you get cancer.
Now, if you ask me what cancer is, I would say Cancer sucks! Yes I do advocate finding the good in every situation, but let's be honest, no one wants a nasty, dreadful disease like cancer. Nobody wants to be sick, nobody wants to impose caregiver duties to family. You don't want to be stuck to a wheelchair with oxygen. Cancer can make you stronger or it can break you, but you have no choice but to face it. Cancer puts your life on hold, it affects not just you but the whole family and everyone who cares about you. I'm a planner, I even said I'm going to make my daughter's wedding cake, now I can't even plan her next birthday. Cancer can put you in a good place, it can give your life a renewed perspective, but I believe you can get that some other way too, getting cancer to wake up and to realize what you want in life is a bit harsh, don't you think? But, it's here, and I'm not one to meet this with anger and bitterness. It's been given, and it's up to me to squeeze out the goodness I can from it. I buried my head into research when I got the news, they say you have to know the enemy to ensure victory. But, is cancer really the enemy? Cancer just told me I have to look after myself more. Cancer just told me to slow down. Cancer just showed me what is important. Cancer taught my family about love. Now, that doesn't sound like an enemy does it? 

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