Cancer is a word that seems to strike fear in all of us. There’s probably not one of us who haven’t been affected by cancer in one way or the other. It seems that even with all the advances in cancer treatments and preventions, more and more people are hearing those dreaded words “you have cancer.” That October day, when we learned of Les’ diagnosis, is a day I will never forget. It was the day our lives were totally turned upside down. A rush of emotions filled us even as we were numbed by such shocking news. So many thoughts went through my head. I can’t even begin to understand what Les was thinking. After all, it wasn’t me that had the cancer, it was him. No matter how much we shared, our roads were still different. Only a person who’s heard those words can fully understand their impact. One of the things Les said to me more than once was “I hate cancer.” I hate it, too. Cancer robbed me of Les and the life I envisioned with him as we grew old together.
In January, I found out I had a cancer on my neck. I thought it was just a mole, so when the doctor’s office called to inform me it was indeed cancer and to set up an appointment for its removal, I felt a fear run through me. Of course, I knew it wasn’t anything life-threatening. It could be removed and that would be it. But I hung up the phone and just cried and cried. It was hearing those hateful words while my emotions were still so tender and frail. It was then I had a very small glimpse of what it must have been like for Les that October day.
Only about a week after Les moved in with Jesus, I found out from one of my extended family members that her husband has lung cancer. She and I are the same age which causes me to feel even more deeply for what they are going through. This past Friday morning, I bumped into her at the Family Dollar store. Of course, our conversation led to how both she and her husband are doing. I would love to tell you that she was bubbling with good news, but she wasn’t. What I felt from her was guarded optimism. Been there, done that. As she shared with me her concerns of his recent weight loss and fatigue, I couldn’t help the tears that welled up in my eyes, eventually overflowing into tiny streams down my cheeks. I could see Les in those last few weeks as he struggled to keep a “good face” and a positive attitude. I could recall the hope I so tightly clung to of his earthly healing. I saw in her face and heard in her voice the acceptance of their grave situation. Why, I thought, do they have to experience this in their lives? Never before have I recognized such physical family resemblance as I did on Friday. Maybe it was the similarities of our experiences that opened my eyes to that fact. What a helpless feeling engulfed me. Other than sharing my concern, all I could really say to her was to live each day to the fullest.
None of us are promised tomorrow whether we’ve had a diagnosis of cancer or not. And we can’t relive yesterday. So we just need to live each day with hearts full of love for God, our families and all with whom we come into contact. Don’t waste the time you have. Live and love so you will have no regrets. I know I didn’t do everything perfect, but I know I did all I could do and I did it the best I knew how at the moment. Grief and loneliness are difficult enough without a boatload of regrets hitched up for the ride.
Lots of love, Sharon