Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Human Target


I took my 13 year old son to Johnny Rocket's for a greaseburger the other day. We were talking about a show he likes called "Human Target," and he wondered if the character who plays Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) had been in anything else. I handed my son my iPhone so he could look the actor's bio up on IMDB.

On the show, Haley has a flowing head of collar-length hair (not to mention a seriously impressive case of bad-assedness.) On IMDB, there was the above picture of him bald. My son showed me that photo and innocently said, "I wonder if he's bald in that picture because he had cancer?"

Up until that moment, I hadn't thought my having cancer had affected him at all.

He was 12 when I was diagnosed, and from the very beginning, I told him what would happen and that odds are I would be fine. I made cancer jokes (you would be amazed at all the opportunities you can find if you try) and let him know he could say or ask anything, and I'd be okay with it. It was not a taboo subject, nor a depressing one.

I figured he was a good age to have to deal with a parental illness.  Early teen kids are very self-absorbed, yet also young and trusting enough enough to take their cues from an adult. If you don't worry, they won't, I thought. They are too busy.   His grades stayed high, he participated in extra-curricular activities and life went on as normal - because it mostly was.

Despite my belief that he would emerge unscathed by my experience, his comment made me realize that something did change in him. Another kid would likely look at that picture of the bald actor with penetrating eyes and a hard stare, and think about how tough the man looks.

My son thinks he has cancer.

It shows how the insidious nature of this illness not only invades the body, but the mind. A malignant cell will break out and show its nature, even during an innocent conversation about a bad-ass actor.

I do not think my son has been tragically scarred by my disease, nor do I think he has been overly worried.

But, in some small way, he has been changed. He thinks a little differently than he might have before. In a sense, he, too, has become a human target in cancer's disease path.

And that is sad.

1 comment:

  1. I've found that just about everyone who knows me well has been changed - even a bit - by my cancer. As time passes, however, they seem to forget what it was like, but for us survivors, we never will.

    I know that I had cancer so that I could help someone else through it. If I hadn't walked through it myself, I would have had no idea what it was REALLY like... and how it still affects me today.

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