Language. I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days ever since I finally figured out what people typing DX at a breast cancer forum meant. Care to give it a try? I’ll give you a clue. It has to do with cancer and it’s something that everyone gets at the start. Dose of Ecstasy..Deluxe treatment..Dream Extraction? While the mind bending drugs would have been nice, it actually stands for diagnosis. When I joined the forum I felt nervous to say hello and live up to previous introductions, half of which I could not interpret. A typical one reads “I was DX in January with IDC and had a MX and ANC. Currently I am in TAX 3 with horrible SEs and gonna have rads and hormones.” So I didn’t bother and just lurked.
Two weeks into being a member I deciphered some of the code. TAX meant Docetaxel, my chemo drug, and MX was mastectomy. This felt like an initiation ritual passed, a hazing survived. I started to become more confident to write on the forum and began with gentle commenting. I have only resorted to googling ANC which is still a toss up between Absolute Neutrophil Count or Axillary Node Clearance. I’m learning towards the latter from the context I’ve read it mentioned in. It’s definitely wasn’t my first brain jump which leaned towards the African National Congress, the political party in power in South Africa. Strangely though there is some intersection in my mind between these two acronyms. When I did some climate change work in Soweto and was visiting with activists there, my local friend Dudu took me to a meeting in a house one day. There I sat mostly in bewildered isolation as the activists present spoke to each other in a mix of Afrikaans, English and Zulu. I understood one word in 5 if I was lucky. Dudu told me it was a coded language that made it possible to exclude oppressors from comprehension during apartheid.
When I was confronted with this coded language of a new group I was becoming part of, it brought this old memory to mind. Not that the two struggles can be compared and by no means are non-cancer types apartheid-style nasties. But I felt it was a similar dynamic of a group of people outside the mainstream creating a language that identified them as a group. At first it felt a little bit exclusive to me but because I already felt a part of this group by manner of my DX, I didn’t walk away. I worked hard to understand through context (and Google) and repetition. The same way we learn to use any language I suppose. Now I feel I earned my stripes. I feel confident and proud to say “I got my DX in January with IDC in one boob and lymph nodes. I’m on TAX 2 and the SEs aren’t too bad. Will be getting rads and hormones.”
*For the uninitiated (and hopefully you will always be so)
FEC: combo of chemo drugs fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide
ANC: Axillary Node Clearance
IDC: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
SE: side effects
WBC: White Blood Cell