It’s quiet now, except for Pandora playing softly on my computer. I love this time of day where I can be still and listen. And I’m not talking about my music. But as I’m listening to the” shuffle” playing, I think, “When was the last time I just quieted my mind and enjoyed my music”? I really can’t remember when. Is this what God is trying to tell me? No, it goes deeper than that.
I started writing this blog earlier this evening, and deleted everything I’d written. I was writing about Cancer and the words a person associates with cancer,along with their definitions. Chemotherapy, Scans, Tumors, Surgeries, Radiation…and the list goes on ....
Before our lives took this unexpected detour, I knew several people over the years that had cancer. But did I really? I don’t think I knew them at all. At least not their core, not their innermost self.
My best friend died of Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 23. I was 24 at the time, and very busy with my oldest son. It took me 10 years before I could think of Debbie without feeling that thick knot form in my throat. I didn't have anyone to talk to about it. No one who would just listen to how I felt. Her family was too busy dealing with their own grief to give me consideration. Not their fault. It was just that way. But as I look back now, over 20 years later, I wonder how much did I know about Debbie’s struggle? She was my best friend. I’m supposed to know these things.
Did I ever think what it must have been like for her to have been given the initial diagnosis…”you have cancer”. Did I realize her fear? I didn't begin to understand the thoughts she must have been dealing with at the time. Why me? I’m only 21, I have my whole life in front of me. Fear.
And then the treatments. She had several surgeries as the tumors continued to pop up inside her body. After surgery to remove those tumors, she had chemotherapy. And oh, was she sick. But did I realize what sick meant? Did I picture in my mind how her stomach was cramping up, how she tried to fly to the bathroom before vomiting all over her bed? Did I picture her kneeling over the toilet on the cold tile, with her hair caked with vomit as she heaved and heaved until the only thing left was acid bile? And how weak and utterly spent she was. No. I did not.
Debbie’s fight against cancer lasted two years. I didn't grasp the days in between treatments where that nagging C word followed her everywhere she went. I didn't understand what it meant when she told me she was going the hospital for more scans. The fear. The dry mouth as you are waiting for your name to be called into the Dr. office to discuss the results. Ugh. Debbie’s scans showed that there was a tumor on the sack surrounding her heart. Cancer was closing in. The treatment she decided to take was a bone marrow transplant. She never made it home. I never saw her again after our Friday night goodbye’s, before she headed to St. Louis. She died in the hospital from complications due to the treatment.
Melanoma isn’t about words and their definitions. Melanoma is about real people struggling every single day. Every day since that first phone call, “We have your results, we’d like you to come into the office to discuss. No, unfortunately, I can’t tell you more, as I’m only the nurse. The Dr. will see you tomorrow”. The fear, the uncertainty and confusion.
Whether it is a diagnosis that requires ongoing treatment with scans every three months, or with the coveted NED (no evidence of disease) victory cry, these warriors battle daily. And with Melanoma, the battle continues for the rest of their lives, until there is a cure.
So in conclusion, when you hear of a friend, family member, co- worker or neighbor that is walking on the Cancer road, acknowledge their fight. You may not see evidence of their battle, but I can guarantee you, there are scars. Words may not be necessary, but a hug and a listening ear is a gift. And one that they have earned, and one they will cherish.