Many years ago, a counselor used this metaphor with me. He asked me if I am the hunter or if I am the prey? He stated that if I was not one, than I was the other. I interpreted this as him wanting to get the point across that life is not neutral. It is not to be observed, it is to be lived, and in some cases, defended and fought for.
I like the hunter/prey metaphor better than the often used “fight or flight” because there is more immediacy to it. Fight or flight refers to stressful situations that may or may not come to pass. The psychological aspect of fight or flight asks: do we confront, or do we run?
Hunter/ prey takes it a step further and reminds us that it is not just about situations we find ourselves in or seek out, but that situations may seek us out whether we want them to or not. And, whether we are aware of it or not.
Sitting atop our perch of the animal kingdom, it is easy to view humanity as hunter. Sure, when it is us against sheep and cows we are hunters. But what about when it is us against each other? Or us against ourselves? Our issues? Issues we don’t want to face, confront, or deal with? Issues like death. Like cancer.
The hunter/prey metaphor can be positive as well as negative. Further, you can be a hunter in one situation and the prey in another. How we respond to our wants, needs, and fears will determine this on a case-by-case basis.
On a macro level, considering that the rate of cancer diagnosis has gone from 1 in 20 to 1 in 3 for a female and 1 in 2 if you’re a male: between society and cancer, who is the hunter and who is the prey?
As I allude to above, sometimes prey will not know it is being hunted or fully appreciate and understand the fervor with which it is being hunted.
Prior to 9/11/2001, we as Americans knew about terrorism, but many of us had no idea the extent to which Osama Bin Laden was hunting us.
After 9/11 occurred, the mindset in America changed. We wanted to be the hunter. We were filled with fear, sadness, and anger over the attack. We mourned the loss of life. We were terrorized not knowing when Osama might strike again. We may not have used the word prey at the time, but that is what we feared we were.
It was a challenge and a threat, that despite differences on how to fight terrorism, most us wanted to fight it. In other words, we collectively decided to deal with it as hunters, not wanting to just shrug our shoulders or throw our hands up and let it happen again.
Despite the fact that illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers present an exponentially greater threat to us than an airplane blowing up in the sky, many of us have the equivalent of a pre 9/11 mentality when it comes to cancer.
This is not meant to diminish the intention, efforts and results of those seeking a cure. However, the scoreboard, in terms of number of people being diagnosed, says we are getting our butt’s kicked. And it doesn’t seem to bother the masses, and in turn our leaders, as much as it should.
Where are the questions? Where are the hearings? Where is the accountability? In government, the pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals?
We’re talking the number one killer worldwide. At exactly what point does a sense of urgency kick in? If one in three people were hit by terrorism, Martial Law would probably be declared.
Forget cancer for a moment. I want to ask you a hypothetical question.
First, humor me for a second and imagine that tomorrow the lead front-page story in the NY Times is about the leaking from a high-ranking official that cancer is in fact now a man-made disease. A biological weapon that scientists in the Middle East have figured out how to duplicate and unleash upon us. And that is the reason the rate of diagnosis is increasing so dramatically.
Of course this is not true. But what if it was? Do you think the news would be covering cancer differently? Stoking fears? Demanding a cure?
I believe their panic and urgency would understandably become our panic and urgency. As a result the government would do more. And it would be for the better.
President John F. Kennedy created urgency in 1961 when he declared America would reach the moon by the end of that decade.
President George W. Bush, declared war on terrorism after 9/11 promising to take us to whatever corner of the Earth we needed to go.
Despite their differences, President Barack Obama has taken the baton, continuing, and when it comes to the use of predator drones, escalating the fight to keep us safe from terrorism.
Where is the urgency and declaration for cancer? I repeat: Where is the accountability?
The family of victims of terrorism are said to be entitled to answers. And they are. When suspected negligence, proven or not, occurs in places like Benghazi, hearings are demanded. “The people have a right to know!” And we do.
But this disease. Cancer. It hunted down, tortured and killed my mother, and millions of others… She was its prey. And myself and all the people who loved her were its collateral damage. Left to grieve and perhaps be hunted down ourselves by this killer one day.
The level of depression, anger and post-traumatic stress of watching my mother go through this can be overwhelming. Am I entitled to any answers? Are the millions of others who experienced the loss of a loved one close to them, are they entitled to answers? God forbid it happens to you or someone you love, are you entitled to answers?
I don’t know if a cure is around the corner, but I know we can do better. And if we can do better, shouldn’t we? But unless we make it an issue, our leaders will not. When my mother passed I decided I wanted answers, and that I no longer wanted to be prey to this disease. I want to hunt it.