I am one of the lucky ones.
At my first meeting with my oncologist back in April, I had a list of questions to ask, the most important of which was, how soon can I start chemo? I hadn’t had surgery to put the port in my chest yet, and my worries were 1) I would have to wait until after I had the port, and 2) that if I had to wait that long, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to breathe on my own by the end of the week. My lungs were running out of space to expand, filling with liquid, and my windpipe was getting smaller every day.
I’m a frequent reader of the webcomic xkcd.com, which as the header says, is about romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Usually it’s nerdy jokes for engineers and programmers like myself, but every once in a while it takes a serious turn. The first comic he posted after I got the results from my initial CT scan was this one, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I bawled my eyes out in the car on my drive in to work that morning. You can read about survival rates til the cows come home, but in the end, it does nothing to help, and just makes you feel like another data point on a graph – which is technically true, but not comforting (as a Baseball Prospectus writer recently discovered).
Whoever coined the term “fighting cancer” must not have had cancer themselves. Fighting is an active verb, and gives the idea that as if by sheer willpower you can make a difference. In reality, you endure cancer – you sit back and take it – and you hope and let the chemo do the fighting. But not everyone is lucky enough to let chemo and radiation get to work.
Yesterday, I had my 8th round of chemo at the clinic in Holland. My mom and I kept our minds occupied by watching episodes of Modern Family and playing Scrabble. I have to say, it was the quickest and easiest round I’ve had yet – I was in and out in 2.5 hours. And more than anything, I’m thankful that my appointment was earlier in the morning than usual. Shortly after we finished a light lunch at Panera, my mom got a call that Mary DeYoung was going to be taken off of her ventilator at the hospital in Grand Rapids.
Her cancer grew so fast that she didn’t have enough time to start radiation or chemotherapy. We got to the ICU in time to see her one last time, before I had to force myself to step out into the hallway and watch the monitor in the nurses’ station show her heart rate from from 82 beats per minute, to 60, to 40, to 31, to a flat line.
And we cried, and cried, and cried until out tear ducts dried up, and then cried some more.
I am one of the lucky ones.
In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window
In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing
All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window
All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes