One sure sign that I have slipped my gears: I start setting billboards on fire.
I have veered off course if, when I drive by a “Happy Hospital fixed my cancer” billboard, I start shooting Napalm from my fingertips.
“Cancer doesn’t stand a chance against this team” WHOOSH! KABOOM!
Violent wishful thinking doesn’t make anything right. Certainly doesn’t change the outcome. It’s childish, but it makes me feel better. Like a pinch fight, or punching each other on the arm until you can’t raise your hand. They hurt me, I hurt them back.
Pay us to save your life
They never say that. It’s inferred in the images, the battlefield language: war, fight, crusade, conquer, beat, win.
Come to us, and you’ll live
Because they have the right doctors. Because they’re in it to win. Because they’re in the “hope” business.
They’re in business. Period.
We had to pass those billboards on the way to and from Mark’s treatments. They’re on every major thoroughfare, inescapable. Before things got really dark, Mark liked to joke with his doctors about his billboard, that it would say: “They missed it the first time, but I’m better now” or “Second time’s a charm!” After chemo and radiation failed again, and more of his life was stripped away, the jokes stopped. We’d pass a billboard, Mark would look over at me and shake his head, roll his eyes.
The commercials are worse. Especially the ads for The Cancer Clinic That Cures You When No One Else Can*- the ones that air continuously during daytime television because they know that the people most likely to be watching daytime television are too ill to change the channel. From where Mark sat in the “diseasy chair,” cheek resting on his fist because he was too weak to hold up his head, these commercials were a form of torture. He said they made him feel like he’d failed. Like he’d done everything wrong.
We dumped cable, but you can’t ignore the billboards.
When I’m in a good place, I can sigh and drive on. When I’m not, I’m wishing that this hurt was reciprocal, and that for every time I drive by their billboard and feel that pinch, the corporate assholes who love cancer for the mansions that they live in and the cars that they drive, suddenly wonder why their arms hurt.
It’s so immature, spiteful and mean of me to say that.
And yet, I can live with myself.
(*Not their real name)