Cancer and its effects have been on my mind this week. It started as I thought about Marty visiting her friend Susan in DC. (I actually have two Susan friends who have cancer and from time to time I have asked you to pray for them.) Well, the DC Susan is Marty's oldest and dearest friend who was diagnossed with inflammatory breast cancer three years ago when her younger son was about three months old. More often than not, this particular breast cancer is a killer. Susan underwent agressive chemo and radiation, went into remission and then had a bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy. She resumed work from home doing special projects for NASA (she's an astro-physicist), started a blog for moms with cancer and became quite vocal as an advocate for breast cancer awareness, particularly the kind she had. Then this past spring she heard the dreaded words from her doctor that cancer cells were discovered in lymph nodes under her arm. Back she went for more radiation and was put on an oral chemo drug which has wreaked havoc on her body. Still, she mustered the energy for Marty to visit along with her two boys for three or four days last week. Monday the oncologist recommended they stop the chemo because of the toll it was taking repeat scans in January to see if the drug has wiped out the cancer. Susan, naturally, has had some questions about the doctor's recommendation.
Then came the announcement on that very Monday that treatment had been stopped for Elizabeth Edwards. Most of us who heard that understood that her death would be emminent, but were somewhat surprised to learn that she died Tuesday morning. She was a brave woman who chose to live with her disease rather than to await her death. She was also a high profile person who endured the public humility of her husband's infidelity. Her grace and dignity in the midst of her suffering most certainly will be the legacy she leaves. I can only wonder if she had questions about her decision to stop treatment when she did.
Mrs. Edwards's influence will be felt across the country. Susan influences many daily as she blogs, as she shares in the scientific community and as she continues her life as wife and mother. She, too, has a large audience. Many more of us have much smaller circles of influence, but no matter how known or unknown we are, we have family and friends who love and support us and who pray for our healing. Cancer is no respector of persons!
My other friend, Susan who has ovarian cancer, faced new decisions regarding her treatment recently. There were questions as to the best course to take. Was she making the right decision? How would it affect her life? Would the new treatment be more effective than the previous one?
The events of the week raised questions for me as well. My last treatment was November 19 and have not actually been told when they will be resumed. They were stopped so that my body could have a much needed rest, but I can't help but wonder if there is something I don't know. Are we about to face the decision between quantity and quality? How much will be have to play "catch up" when I begin again? How much ground will have been lost, if any? Will we enjoy aa period of remission? There are always questions. We all have them.
I hate cancer. I hate what it does to its victims. I hate, especially, what it does to family and friends of those who have it. My heart aches when I remember Tom hearing, not once, but several times about the cancer in my body; it aches when I remember having to tell our children and it aches when I remember the look on Tommy's face when the doctor told us that the disease is incurable and predicted how long I'd live--even though he was wrong with his calculations. These are the things that make me sad.
I am sustained by the knowledge that God is bigger than any cancer and as one Susan reminds me, He is on duty 24/7. The heartache shrinks when I remember how blessed I am to have such a loving, caring husband, children and other family who express their love and concern in too many ways to count and friends far and wide who stay close. There will always be questions, but we need not fear when we trust such a faithful God as we have. During this Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus, I am especially reminded of the hope, peace, joy and love He brought.