This morning I went up to the hospital for my (now) three-weekly blood tests and to pick up my next round of 84 chemo tablets. The tablets last me 14 days and after that I have a week off in order to give my immune system a chance to recover. I go up early in the morning and it’s usually quiet in oncology at that time of day. But today was quite busy and so I waited around for a bit while the nurses tended to other patients who were getting infusions.
Some of the faces there are becoming quite familiar and we seem to have an unspoken understanding of what each other has been through, and more importantly, what is still to come.
Today there were two new faces. One lady who looked like cancer was getting the better of her… and she knew it too. It was easy to see the fear in her eyes and I felt like I should go over to her and hug her… but of course that would be inappropriate, especially considering we don’t know each other. So I just smiled at her each time she looked at me.
The other new face wasn’t a patient at all but rather the wife of a patient. She came in just as I was about to leave, her eyes red and tears running down her face. The nurses met her in the corridor and they all hugged her and cried softly together…. cancer had taken her husband during the night and she had come down to inform the nurses and thank them for all they did to help him.
I sat there choking back tears myself. I knew exactly what this woman was going through and there was nothing I could do to help her. Death had visited her house and there was nothing anyone could do.
My nurses said their goodbyes and then they both quietly slipped into their office to compose themselves before attending to the rest of the waiting patients. I sat there, still, quiet. Not knowing if I should speak or just quietly slip out.
In the end I went to their office, signed my paperwork quietly and left.
I am struggling to process what I saw today. I am struggling to reconcile the fact that I am getting better while other people are dying.
Why cancer at all?
I was speaking with my Oncologist recently and he was most offended when I told him there were some people who were asking about my prognosis. He was of the opinion that it was a most invasive question to ask and that they really had no right to ask such a thing at all. He was most defensive of me and told me that if anyone asks again I should tell them my prognosis is certain death, just like everyone else on the planet.
I thought about this as I walked out of the hospital, still very upset, and as I walked down the service road towards my car I started to speak to God. Because, really, when it comes to life and death, who else do you speak to?
God…. you can stop this….. why don’t you?
It’s not for me to know.
In Isaiah 55:8 (The Message) God says:
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.
For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”
While I firmly believe that life itself is truly a gift I am also very aware that there is appointed unto us all a time to live and a time to die. That’s the way of things…. and they are well and truly out of my control.
Still…. I don’t like the idea of dying.
The British comedian Lenny Henry once said that he felt that it would be much more polite for Death to make an appointment before coming to see you, like the gas man or the plumber. A little note slipped under your front door saying “Sorry I missed you today, I will be back for you tomorrow at 3:30.”
At least then you could be out.