The average life expectancy in Europe is about 75 years for men and 81 years for women.1 And if you have had the good fortune to be born in Europe, it usually also means that you will have a good lifestyle with free access to general health care, high levels of education, good job opportunities, and generally very few worries when it comes to covering your basic needs and much more. Living in Europe generally means not having to worry about security, famines, natural disasters, or violent political unrest. And if, against all expectations, any of these things do happen, there is usually a quick response system in place to help all people affected. Disease, too, does not seem to be much of an issue any more. Regular check-ups, vaccinations and a healthy lifestyle usually have you covered. And if something does happen, we have got state-of-the-art treatment to take care of it. Human rights, freedom of conscience, expression and religion are all covered. The worst that could happen is you have a bad spell, but then there are social services to help you pick yourself up again.
So, let’s face it, if you are born in Europe – with very few exceptions – life is something you can pretty much take for granted. Correct? Usually, your biggest worry is going to be your own personal happiness. Have you really lived up to your dreams? Did you find the perfect partner/job/home/etc.?
This is the ground you are standing on. The ground we are all standing on. It is where we have firmly planted our feet and expect to take root in.
But what if that ground is suddenly pulled away from underneath you? What if one tiny moment means that your life will never be the same again? What happens then to all those promises of life you grew up believing in? To all those dreams you had? To all the plans you made for your future? What if they were all taken away from you to be placed in the hands of others? To be replaced by uncertainty? Would you not feel angry and betrayed? Would you not think that life is unfair? Most of all, would you not think: “Why me?” and “Why now?” What, if nobody can give you an answer to that?
Imagine finding a small lump somewhere on your body. Maybe while sitting in your garden or on a beach applying sun screen. It seems inauspicious and it is probably harmless but why not take a test. Just to be on the safe side. Going to the doctor is no big deal, and a few tests will surely mean you have got nothing to worry about.
But still, this is the point when uncertainty starts creeping in. It is tiny at first, just a minuscule little niggle at the back of your mind, easily drowned out by other thoughts and distractions. Let’s wait for the results first, you tell yourself and off you go to the cinema or a party or a gathering with friends. The niggle starts up again at night, though, softly but persistently nudging itself back into conscious thought. You cannot sleep so you decide to get up and maybe do a little research online to calm your nerves. It’s probably nothing, you are still thinking. Now, mostly to calm yourself.
Imagine now that you are going to your doctor to find out the results of the test. Imagine him or her looking at you with a grave face. A queasy feeling starts rising up inside your stomach. Your palms start to sweat. You are hoping against hope that they are going to tell you that you are fine. That you have nothing to worry about. That everything is going to be okay. But shouldn’t they be smiling then? Why are they looking so grave? Why aren’t they smiling?
And then they say it: “I am afraid it is cancer.” Six words to end your life. You do not even hear the rest of what they are saying. You have already tumbled and fallen. And you keep falling. It turns out the ground you were standing on was not firm at all. It was just a very thin and threadbare rug covering a big black bottomless hole underneath. The hole you are now falling down. How could you not have seen it? Not known of its existence all this time? Your thoughts start spinning. Isn’t cancer supposed to be something that only affects elderly people? Why else would they only start most cancer screenings at the age of 50? You might have heard about someone who had cancer in your vicinity. But they were probably someone’s grandfather or grandmother. And anyway, it really isn’t a subject anyone ever talked about, is it now?
Slowly, your doctor’s words get through to you. They are very faint and seem to be coming from a long way off. They are talking about further tests and treatment options and life expectancy. But all you can think about is “Why me?”, “Why now?”, “What about my dreams and plans?”, “What about my life?”, and “What do I tell the others?”
Cancer “is the second largest cause of death in the EU-28.”2 Increasingly it affects young people between the ages of 20 and 35, especially women. Yet it is still a taboo subject in many parts of society. This means that on top of having to deal with a potentially life-threatening disease as well as long, drawn-out, and potentially life-changing treatments, people are also feeling excluded from society and sometimes even from their own families because they feel too ashamed to talk about it. It is time to lift the stigma on one of the biggest uncertainties potentially affecting our lives today. Let’s talk about cancer.
End notes / References:
“Average life expectancy in Europe for those born in 2017, by gender and region (in years)”, Statistica.com 2018 https://www.statista.com/statistics/274514/life-expectancy-in-europe/ (02/05/2018)
“Cancer statistics”, Eurostat – statistics explained http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Cancer_statistics (02/05/2018)
Photo 1: Cochem, Germany – The afternoon – Fred Young
Photo 2: Nuremberg, Germany – Hanging out -Tivanova
Photo 3: Berlin, Germany – Skeptical – Frantic
Photo 4: Berlin, Germany – Up – Andreas Kind-1280×720
Photo 5: Berlin, Germany – Oberbaumbrücke – Björn Grochla
Photo 6: Kempen, Germany – Out for a walk – Rieke Photos
Photo 7: Nuremberg, Germany – Reading – Tivanova
Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed
Awdejuk, Pawel. Niepewność – The Road to Freedom – Poland. July 2018.
Bell, Sarah. The Bushfire Drive – Australia. July 2018.
Bondarenko, Evgeny. Twenty Plus Years. August 2018.
Cajoto, Christina. The Trajectory of Life – España. August 2018.
Castañeda, Martha Corzo. Worried Workers – Peru. February 2018.
Cooleridge, Tweeney. Uncertainty in the Abstract – Slovakia. March 2018.
Cordido, Veronica. The Crib of Uncertainty – Venezuela. January 2018.
Dastan, S.A. Uncertain Waters – Turkey. March 2019.
Electra P. Aβεβαιότητα: The Enemy of Romantic Relationships – Greece. February 2018
Escandell, Andrea da Silva. Compromise – Uruguay. March 2018
Goumiri, Abdennour. Uncertainty Is All There Is – France. February 2018.
Guerrero, Marilin. Crossing the Uncertain Path of Life – Cuba. February 2018.
Guillot, Iuliana. Preparing for Change – Romania. June 2018.
Huihao, Mu. Going the Uncertain Way. July 2017.
Julber, Lillian. What Will Tomorrow Bring? – Chile. July 2018.
Kanunova, Nigina. Metamporphoses in Modern Life. June 2018.
Konbaz, Rahaf. So You Say You Want A Revolution – Syria. March 2018.
Korneeva, Kate. One We – Russia. April 2018.
Krnceska, Sofija. No Name Country – Macedonia. May 2018.
Lassa, Verónica. The Old Eastern Books of Uncertainty – Argentina. May 2018.
Lozano, Gabriela. El cuchillo de la incertidumbre : Piercing Uncertainty – México. January 2018.
Phelps, Jade. Healing Journey Pulls Us Apart – America. June 2018.
Protić, Aleksandar. Environmental Uncertainty. August 2018.
Romano, Mavi. An Uncertain Democracy – Spain. April 2018
Ranaldo, Mary. Incerto or Flexible: Italia and UK. March 2018.
Çakır, Peren. Building a Future in Times of Uncertainty – Argentina and Turkey. May 2018.
Sanmartín, Virginia. Qué Será, Será – Spain. June 2018.
Samir, Ahmed. Uncertainty in Personal Life. January 2018.
Sekulić, Jelena. Nesigurnost of the Past, Present and Future – Serbia. June 2018.
Sem, Sebastião. Vagrant Poets. September 2018.
Sepi, Andreea. Uncertainties Galore – Germany. April 2018.
Sitorus, Rina. When Uncertainty Reaches the Land of Certainty – Indonesia and the Netherlands. May 2018.
Quintero, Jonay. The Fear of Not Knowing – España. January 2018.
Vuka. Lacking Uncertainty in Political Culture – Serbia. April 2018.
Zakharova, Anastasiya. LGBQT – Russia. August 2018.
Translators and writers from Uruguay, Britain, Poland, China, Argentina, Lebanon, India and other parts of the world…
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed