I went into MDA today for my 3-month checkup, and in my case I am happy to say that my condition remains stable. Everything seems to be going well except for my weight, blood pressure, and a bit of arthritis in the shoulders and hands. In fact, Dr. Lambert said she has lowered the probability that I will need surgery in the next couple years from 50% to about 25%. So, on that count I should be happy, and I am truly grateful to the Lord for His mercy and my good situation.
But these visits to MDA tear at me. Cancer is still one of the most horrific diseases I have ever had to see attack people, and because you are never “cured” of the thing – in a best-case situation it just stops trying to kill you for a while, and you wait to see if and when it comes back for another go. And cancer almost never hurts just one person. It puts wives and husbands, parents and children, through absolute hell for years on end, as doctors fight an ongoing battle against malignant cell growth, side effects from the chemotherapy and the radiation and the drugs, and in some cases the damn thing mutates or becomes resistant to the best treatments we have available. Every time I go to MDA, I see people waiting for their first diagnosis and worried about what they will hear, I see people who have to learn a new way to live to deal with their condition, I see people who have to hear that there may a “lose” to this thing, but in many cases the closest thing to a “win” is that things are no worse.
I found out today that someone I met here in October, whose Leukemia treatment was going well, passed away last month. A couple other patients I knew have had to go into hospice care. I was in an elevator this morning trying to come to grips with this news, when another patient, whose face had been half-destroyed by a Stage III melanoma, saw my distress and tried to cheer me up. He thought I was worried about my PMP, and sympathized that he at least knew the worst of his condition, and he wished I knew how my situation would go. I thanked him for his kindness, frankly amazed that someone who had suffered so much would still pay more attention to someone else.
In the Bible, it is written that when Jesus came to the town where his friend Lazarus had died, He wept. At times this seemed strange to me, since the Scripture made clear He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. The suffering, however, by Lazarus and by his family, that was very real and did not un-happen even with Lazarus coming back to life. I believe that verse was there, so that we might understand that God cares about our suffering, that He shares our pain and that we are not alone in it. I cannot say I understand anything about the reason why this kind of pain should exist, but I do know that it is very important that we know we do not have to be alone in it.