Henning Mankell: ‘No one need to have to face cancer alone’

Henning Mankell

‘Nobody – neither I nor the doctors treating me – understands what my state of overall health truly is.’ Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

It is now two months considering that I was  diagnosed with cancer. I am previously effectively into the second series of chemotherapy remedy. Hence far I have been spared any noticeable side-results. The fact that a battle is taking place within my physique is a lot more of a vague suspicion than a definite feeling.

I have several motives to be grateful. That is a considered that takes place to me each morning when I wake up. The efforts manufactured by the employees at the Sahlgrenska hospital in Gothenburg could hardly have been greater, quicker or much more effective.

But of program no person – neither I nor the medical doctors treating me – understands what my state of overall health actually is. How efficient the cytotoxins actually are. In a few weeks’ time different checks will reveal a lot more about that. Till then, all I can do is to hope for the very best.

It would be untrue if I were to claim that following the last two months I totally comprehend the implications of all this – of my cancer. I nevertheless wake up with a start off during the evening and consider: this can’t possibly be real.

But it is real. In my situation it would be unthinkable to deny or to repress the details. I am aware of program that a whole lot of folks would rather not know specifics about what is affecting them. They are clutching at straws and clinging to illusions.

I can realize individuals folks. But, in my situation, that would be an impossible attitude. I want to know. Understanding is what I believe in. The a lot more I know, the far better the resistance I can muster to repel the enemy that has invaded my body.

And besides, I’m not the only one in this position. The statistics are crystal clear: at least 50,000 folks are stricken by cancer each and every yr in Sweden. It is not challenging to perform out how several that indicates per day, or per hour.

Additionally, they say that presently among 6 and seven folks out of ten survive their cancer. But that is a figure to be regarded with a lot of reservations. What kind of cancer have been they stricken with? How soon was it diagnosed? Did the doctors be successful in applying the most suitable treatment?

But of program, one could toss ten scraps of paper into a hat, four of them with crosses on, and then hope to draw a blank piece. If that is how you choose to approach daily life, you can let likelihood to determine whether or not you will be a survivor.

And in any case, what is meant by “survival”? Is that reckoned in months or years?

Obtaining cancer is not just being afflicted by a severe illness: the possibility that it will end in death is always lurking in the background. But as far as I am concerned, information is a required ally. Comprehending exactly what is happening, and what might allow me to collect strength in the most appropriate way. Not understanding is to embark upon a flight away from the details, and I have no wish to do that.

Linked with this “understanding or not being aware of” is another aspect that is crucial. One thing I have come to realise above the final couple of months.

There are so a lot of individuals who are desperately lonely with their cancer. Who have hardly anybody with whom they can share their torments, no one to talk about their worries with, the angst, the panic that so usually looms large in the course of the nights.

As well as carers and counsellors, everybody demands someone they can lean on. I will not think it is feasible in the extended run to reply all the queries on one’s very own.

In my situation, I naturally recognise the relevance of my nearest and dearest when it comes to enduring and remaining as sturdy as feasible throughout my sickness.

I have no thought how many of those 50,000 folks in Sweden afflicted each year with cancer are lonely and defenceless. But nobody should be in that position. It is a challenge not only for the health services, but for the total of our culture. The loneliness that has been permitted to spread in excess of the last 50 many years and become nearly the norm is casting us ever deeper into a society that is basically inhuman. 1 in which solidarity and brotherly adore has become the exception.

When all is said and carried out, the way we see others is often the way we see ourselves. No one must be alone with his or her cancer, their hopes and their fears.

• Translated by Laurie Thompson

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