My first real encounter with a cockroach was in China.
It was 3 am in the hot Fuzhou climate, when I woke needing the loo.
I switched on the bathroom light, and there it was, motionless next to the sinkhole of the shower.
This was not the small insect I had imagined inhabiting the dirtiest of Chinese Takeaways.
This was more like a small pet. With eyes that were looking at me. And seemingly judging my every move.
The next day I hit the internet.
I researched and researched. And then I researched again. I wanted to know all about them.
The type, The gender. The habitat.
The diseases they carried. How quickly they reproduced. How to get rid of them.
You see there are many species of cockroach. But they have many things in common.
They tend to be invisible. They come out at night when you are not around.
They are hard to kill.
They survive. They learn to deal with whatever you throw at them.
A cockroach will eat pretty much anything. Fruit, glue, faeces, you name it! If they’re feeling a bit peckish they’ll even eat other cockroaches to get by!
Imagine one eating all that before climbing onto your toothbrush in the middle of the night.
Plus they carry disease.
And they can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps! Gaps as small as a quarter of their body height.
So when you’re advised to seal all the gaps in your home, that’s a tough ask.
Getting the picture?
And did I mention their reproduction rate….
The lifespan of a cockroach is usually one year, and in any female roach’s lifetime, she can produce anywhere between 200 to 300 offspring or 6 generations a year, depending on species.
Potentially, and with optimal conditions, one female German cockroach (for example) and her offspring could produce 300,000 roaches in a year.
Eliminating them seemed like an impossible task.
Then strangely, something changed.
On one of the online forum, one guy defended the cockroach. He called it La cucaracha – and described it as a beautiful dancer that in the night came out to waltz and pirouette undisturbed through your kitchen.
It kind of jarred at first.
But then I began to see that there were other ways of seeing this creature that had infested my mind.
It became more human somehow.
I became more aware of my Chinese family….
And their somewhat puzzled looks as I scoured the flat looking for evidence.
I found my views softening. Like I was making peace with the enemy outside.
Years later I was diagnosed with melanoma.
A mole on the shin was removed. And a 2 cm margin around it.
I was now someone with cancer.
There was no knowing if it had spread. We were playing wait and see.
I was told there may be cells in the body already there ‘hiding’. That behind the scenes, they could be breeding, spreading, causing more harm.
And again I hit the internet.
Tales of terror. Of illness. Of suffering. Of death.
It was easy to believe there was no hope. That there was no chance of eliminating it. That the spread was too vigorous to interrupt.
And you know that may be true.
But that perspective, and the fight it involves, is not always helpful.
One can come to see things in another way.
Because living in fear is no way to live. Worrying about something that cannot be changed is no way to exist.
Somehow one needs to make peace.
Outside and within.
Being a cancer patient is like having two diseases. A disease in the body and a disease in the mind.
Just like with the cockroach, you can take sensible precautions. Where you remove the food source and seal the gaps.
Even place down some roach bait to kill a few.
But spending all day on the internet or looking for cracks. Becoming consumed by this one thing in your life.
That is no way to live.
So we can treat the cancer. We can exercise the body. We can eat good foods. And enlighten the mind.
But no need to become fixated.
No need to give up living before we are dead.
If you need help working with the mental aspect of living with cancer, I highly recommend the Kiloby Inquiries. It is what I have used and the thing that really made a difference.