Yesterday, someone I knew in high school died after a long battle with cancer. He had married his high school sweetheart and by all accounts was a good guy. His son and my son played music together, sometimes competitively, sometimes cooperatively. He was a senior when I was a sophomore in high school, so just a year or two older than me. He lived long enough to see his son get married last fall and to walk his daughter down the aisle New Years Eve. His wife has been posting updates to facebook throughout and yesterday she posted this:
I can’t even imagine… to die this young, or to be a widow at this age. It is so incredibly sad.
Two other friends from high school both lost husbands to disease at a young age. They were left to raise young children by themselves and to navigate the dangerous waters of finding love again. They both eventually did and life went on. They are amongst the most optimistic people I know, but not without some longing for what might have been. One of them recently posted something on her husband’s birthday.
I have another high school friend who has been battling cancer with his young daughter for the last few years. Childhood cancer seldom turns out well, but so far she is beating the odds and is stable. Every time they have to go for testing, I am sure he holds his breath until the results are in. As a parent, how can you be strong for your child while falling apart inside? I hope I never have to know. He seems to be doing an amazing job of figuring it out.
There is a blog that I follow called New Mom… New Cancer. The mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 3b and then a few short months later their 11 month old daughter was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma Stage 4 High Risk. I believe it’s the same type of brain cancer that my friend’s daughter has. Seven months later, little Saoirse died from the disease. The dad started his own blog as a way to process his feelings about his wife and his daughter. It’s hard to read sometimes.
A Pepperdine peep of mine recently found out that she has breast cancer. She is still in the early stages of diagnosis and has been undergoing a battery of tests to determine what kind it is, how aggressive, etc. She goes in for a biopsy surgery soon and, as strong as she is, it is understandably starting to get to her.
She’s taken up blogging again, in an effort to sort through her own feelings about all of this as well as to educate others who might find themselves in this situation. She started off with a post on January 6th about how she detected the cancer. Her honesty and her desire to be of service to others is inspiring.
Almost six years ago, my mom lost her own battle with cancer. She died July 19, 2006. The picture below was taken in June when my sister and her family came to celebrate Andy’s graduation from high school. She never left that bed again. I had a very hard time processing her death and I’m not entirely sure I’ve done it, even now. I was at Pepperdine when I got the news, getting ready to facilitate VirtCamp. The call came in after midnight and the VirtCampers were arriving starting at noon. I did what I often do… plow ahead into what needs to be done and save the rest for later… but later often gets filled up with what needs to be done.
I guess all of this makes me wonder, with all of the technology and brain power going into research, why we can’t seem to solve the cancer question. Why are people still dying of a disease that should be cured by now? I’ve heard that cancer is called “The Great Equalizer” and I suppose that is true. It doesn’t care how much money you have or what your social status is or where you live. It often comes out of nowhere and leaves you feeling powerless to fight back. Sometimes the treatments have worse effects than the disease. This isn’t a “why God” moment… it’s more of a “why can’t we get this one figured out” moment.
Maybe that’s the point. Maybe there are some things in this world beyond our control for a reason. Maybe if we controlled everything, we’d feel too powerful and then we wouldn’t feel the need to lean into God for support. Maybe it’s all just to keep us humble and to remind us of where we came from and where we are going. Maybe the important thing is to live each day as if it were your last, live in the moment and not worry too much about what is ahead.