Friday, February 28, 2014

When Cancer Camp Gets Real

Dave and I have been jokingly calling our stay here at Angeles Hospital "cancer camp" because the doctors have been so positive about my prognosis, the entire staff has been so overwhelmingly kind and compassionate and we've been enjoying so much downtime lounging about.  Frankly, it's been much easier to cope with reality of a three-week hospital stay for cancer treatments by keeping our sense of humor in tact.

We recognize, however, the seriousness of the situation, and there have been a number of moments when cancer camp has gotten very real.  Post surgery, for example. Outside of childbirth, I've never experienced that much pain and discomfort, so there was no pretending we were just hanging out, having s'mores around the campfire during the first few days of my recovery.  But each day, as the pain eases and I get more of my mobility back, I have been better able put the reality of surgery behind me.

The one reality that can't be ignored is that many of the other patients in the program here are very sick.  We've had the pleasure of getting to know a number of them, and most are stage 4, some with serious complications.  Our next-door neighbor was here for a month to treat lung and liver cancer.  We saw her out of her room only a few times, but I'd wake each night to hear her racking coughs, sad that the only thing I could do was send her blessings for the relief of her pain.

There's another breast cancer patient here whose cancer came back in her bones.  She'd unfortunately received some pretty terrible care back in the states, with negligent and uncaring doctors who for many months ignored her reports of pain despite her earlier diagnosis.  Needless to say, her spirits were low when she arrived and her belief in this process seemed skeptical at best.  Fortunately, over the past week, we've seen her outlook become more positive and she seems encouraged by her progress here.

But by far the hardest journey to witness was that of our neighbor from across the hall, a nice man who checked in with late stage pancreatic cancer and a number of complications that made it difficult for the medical team here to treat his cancer.  Over the past two weeks, we got to know him and his lovely wife, sharing their hope and encouragement that they were in the best possible place, as the doctors at home had given up.  Every night, Dave and I prayed that he would get his miracle.   

Sadly, we woke this morning to an empty room across the hall; our kind neighbor had passed away during the night.  The miracle he received was not meant to be the one for which we had prayed.  His two sons had come down from southern California to be with him and their mother, so we know he had the comfort of family at the end, but our hearts are breaking for them all.

This morning has been a somber one, as each of us here again confronts the reality that not all patients can be saved, despite the efforts of even the best physicians.  We are continuing to pray for the family in their time of loss, and also for each of us who remain, that we may continue to focus our positive energy on our own journeys ahead.

I know the heaviness of this day will ease and I will soon bear witness to yet another reminder of the hope, beauty and grace that is life.  For now, I will continue to focus on making the most of my journey and receiving the benefits of the rest of my treatments while I'm here.

Blessings and love to you all.

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