I have been on both sides of the cancer issue. I have had family members who died from it.
My dad died of brain cancer. My sister and I were away on a Young Life weekend but family members had noticed some signs of a stroke so Dad was admitted to the hospital for tests on Sunday. My aunts and uncle rushed us kids to the hospital Monday after school and Dad started having convulsions before we even got there. There was much confusion that night and I, 16 years old knew something was going on. My aunt did take me up to my Dad’s hospital room and I saw him laying there with our pastor, my mom, and two uncles around him. He was still having convulsions. Dad had surgery early Tuesday for a brain tumor, that was found to be malignant. He was in a coma and I visited him with my mom. Two and a half weeks later he died, never having come out of the coma.
My grandmother had stomach cancer and after her surgery she lived at our house. My uncle came each day to clean out her wound. I couldn’t believe you could see into her stomach. After the wound closed, my grandmother wanted to go back to her apartment in the city. She knew she was dying and wanted to make sure everything was straight in her apartment. She died there within a month.
Aunt Grace, who lived next door to us on the farm, found a lump and they found out she had breast cancer. I remember something as simple as not being able to put her arm over her head after the surgery became an issue. She had slept with that arm over her head and now she couldn’t. So in addition to all the other concerns she had, now she also had trouble sleeping. She died that year and it was hard on the family, especially for my grandmother who had now lost two children.
I have also had close friends who have had cancer.
My school’s secretary found out she had ovarian cancer not long after I started working there. Cathy went through chemo and tried all kinds of healthy food alternatives. She knew she was dying but lived out her life with joy and peace, working as long as possible. She regularly would get friends together for canasta games. I cherished those special times we all spent together laughing. As her disease progressed her goal was to be able to go to her oldest son’s graduation. She was able to do that. My last time with her was a few days before she died. I had just come home from the hospital for a hysterectomy. Cathy had called me before the surgery as I had a 3 cm cyst in my ovary which needed to be removed. We did not know whether it was cancerous or not at the time and she called to encourage me. We also had the same doctor. Well, my cyst turned out to be a teratoma and not cancer. I left the hospital and a few days later Cathy was admitted so I went to visit. She was really weak but we talked for a few minutes. She had heard that I did not have cancer and was so happy for me. Even in the last moments she was looking out for others. She died a few days later surrounded by her family and pastor singing hymns.
After my cancer, another close friend, Teresa, the school’s new secretary found out she had breast cancer. I was so glad I could be there to help her through her journey. We went to the same oncology center and I visited her during a few of the chemo treatments. She later had radiology which I didn’t. The good news is that she is now a 5+ year survivor.
You may know someone who is dealing with cancer. Cancer’s reach is more than just one person. It affects their family, but also their friends and colleagues. How can you help? In the weeks to come I plan to give you insight into some of the things that those with cancer encounter and how best to help them and their family during the journey.
How has cancer touched you?