Monday, October 26, 2020

Preparing to lose a friend to cancer

This weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time with friends I hadn't seen in almost a year. During that time, cancer invaded their lives. 

It came as a surprise to me when I received the email. It said, "Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, spread to the liver." As soon as I read those words, I cringed. Pancreatic cancer usually takes a person fast. 

Our home church was hosting a women's crafting event. Since many of my old friends there know how much I love crafting, I was invited to participate. Since we'd moved many years ago, the hour and a half trip made attending every service difficult. We missed the fellowship, but tried to stay in touch through phone calls and the internet.

I eagerly accepted the invitation knowing I'd have a chance to see some of my dear friends and in particular, I'd get a chance to visit briefly with Jack, the one with pancreatic cancer. 

The day was lovely. The women and I had a blast making fall decorations and centerpieces. It felt good to be surrounded by friends. They didn't know it, but I hadn't been out of the house much over the past few years.

When our crafting time ended and we'd cleaned up the supplies, our husbands came in to see if they could help. We loaded them down with boxes to take to the cars. 

As Jack reached to take a big box from the preacher's wife, I was surprised. He was so thin. Cancer had taken a toll on his body, leaving his 6 foot frame frail.

Trying to help, I rushed over to my husband and whispered in his ear, "Take that box from Jack! He's too weak to carry it," but my husband shook his head no. I wondered why and was saddened that Jack was struggling under the weight of the box. 

A few minutes later, I understood why my husband refused to take the box. If he'd taken it from Jack, he would have wounded Jack's pride. Though Jack was visibly weak from chemo, he still wanted to be treated normally.

On the way home, I couldn't help but cry. Seeing what cancer had already done to my friend was upsetting. There was nothing I could do about it. 

When Jack had received the bad news, I was his first contact. He knew I'd been through breast cancer and I would be able to answer some of his questions. As we talked on the phone, I listened as he asked about every aspect of the cancer journey. I wondered how much information to share and how much to withhold. I didn't want to discourage him but knew he needed answers. So I decided the best thing I could do was be honest with the questions he asked and not divulge information on anything else. 

It's so difficult to know how to help a friend with cancer. Every case is different. But when a friend reaches out, it's our responsibility to be there for them, in any way possible. And that's what I've tried to do for Jack. 

My heart breaks knowing treatment is only going to make him weaker. I want to wrap my arms around him and give him a heads up but won't. I also want to reach out to his wife and let her know I understand how she feels. I know her fear, but I am trying to just be the listening ear. I want her to share her feelings when and if she wants to, I don't want to pry. 

The reality is that I'll lose a friend very soon to cancer. And while I don't want to believe it, I see it, right in front of my eyes. 

I hate cancer so much. I don't understand how one person can do so well and another have a totally different outcome. 

I honestly believe chemotherapy does a person more harm than good in fight cancer. That's one reason I refused it when I was diagnosed. I'd done my research and I'd listened carefully as the oncologist explained what may or may not happen. 

But each person has to chose for themselves. We do whatever it takes to stay alive and sometimes, that means taking the risk of suffering more bodily damage to do so. 

Please pray for Jack in the days ahead. Maybe, just maybe, the chemo will give him a few more months of life. And if not, pray that God takes him home quickly so he won't have to endure more pain. 

Life is so short. We can never take a day for granted. 

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