Cancer is such an ugly word to me. It connotes everything that’s bad. It devastates a person’s life and devours his or her financial assets. The family is also adversely impacted and suffers right along with the afflicted one. With all the modern treatments available these days, we are given hope to combat this terrible disease. We become even more hopeful when we see people surviving after receiving treatment.
I mourn the loss of one of my friends, whose funeral service I attended yesterday. As much as I tried hard to convince myself that it was better for him to go than to live and suffer through all the different treatments, I didn’t succeed. I still felt so very sad and cried uncontrollably anyway. Seeing him resting peacefully in his coffin comforted me somewhat. That, of course, didn’t take away the great sense of sadness in losing him. I’d so much rather see him still alive and well, enjoying life and doing the things he loved doing.
He battled Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cancer since January of last year. His doctors gave him six months to live, but with aggressive experimental drugs they had given him, he lived for another year. I’m glad that our coworkers and I were able to recently visit and spend some time with him several times while he was still alive. Since he couldn’t drive anymore, I’d pick him up and drop him off at his place when our coworkers and I took him out to lunch or dinner.
I’ve met his beautiful and amazing mother. I’ve often thought about her since I met her. It must have been absolute torture for her to watch her son, even though he’s a grown man, go through the ups and downs of battling cancer. When I gave her a hug after the service yesterday, she thanked me very much for attending. She thanked me again for the times I took her son out of the house to socialize with the others.
Four years ago, I lost another friend to cancer. It started out as a melanoma. She received treatment for it and was in remission for three years. Then she started noticing unusual things happening to her. She’d stop and stare blankly at things. When she came to, she’d feel very disoriented and would feel her right hand losing its grip on things. An MRI soon revealed a huge cyst in her brain.
A biopsy confirmed it to be cancerous. She had surgery soon after, along with radiation treatments. She recovered well enough to go back to work after regaining the proper use of her right hand. Everyone in her many circles was ecstatic to hear her play piano again during a concert she gave at her church. Unfortunately, the flicker of hope that we held onto was just that—a flicker.
Three months after her concert, she was right back to square one again. Only, this time, there were more masses and they appeared to have been growing more rapidly. She opted not to receive any more treatment after that.
I was awestruck to learn from her husband after the service that she was the one who planned her own funeral service. She planned it exactly the way she wanted it to be. It was the most elaborate service I’ve ever witnessed. She even planned to have two services to accommodate everyone—one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Just fifteen months before that, another friend died of cancer, as well. I befriended her when she came to the clinic where I used to work. Moving from New York, she was only in our city eight months when she felt lumps in her breast. She took the most aggressive treatment. She had both her breasts removed. She also received both radiation and chemotherapy. She felt well for four months after her treatment. Then she started having debilitating headaches, had difficulty standing up, and often times was talking nonsense.
Since her only son lived in Boston and she had no family around, I took it upon myself to keep an eye on her. When she couldn’t drive anymore, I’d take her to her appointments, bought her groceries, and helped keep her apartment clean and tidy. Because she was unemployed and depended solely on what her son sent her every month, I went ahead and paid for her groceries. Another friend and I helped her get Social Security benefits. It took a while but she eventually received them. Unfortunately, she didn’t live very long after that to really benefit from it.
One day, she called me to take her to the emergency room. Even though I’m not her relative, but was the only one the doctor could discuss her illness with, he showed me the MRI of my friend’s brain. He and I counted seven masses. With the MRI, her history with cancer, and the presented symptoms, the doctor was sure she had brain cancer.
I notified my friend’s son and told him about the findings and what was suggested for her. After a few days at the hospital, she was moved to a nursing home. She was not at all happy with this. It just so happened that I was going on a vacation to the Philippines, so I told her that she would get the help and care she needed at the nursing home while I was away. Her son was okay with it when I talked to him again on the phone.
When I came back from vacation, I found her at another nursing home. In just the two weeks I was away, she had lost a lot of weight—she was nothing but skin and bones. I felt a tremendous guilt for leaving her and was sick to my stomach to see this once beautiful, lively lady in a diaper. She must have kicked off her blanket while squirming incessantly to get comfortable from the pain. She didn’t even recognize me anymore. I immediately put the blanket back on her. I also tried to feed her the food that had been delivered, but she resisted my every attempt. Instead, she wailed like a hyena because of the pain. I’m very sure it was pain because each time I asked what was wrong, she pointed to the back of her head. Her son arrived the next day, just in time to visit with her before she passed away a few hours later.
I hope that one day soon, a for-sure-cure for cancer will be discovered. I hope it’s soon enough to save the lives of those who are suffering right now.
Thanks, everyone, for your time.