Shortly after my wife and I returned from our trip to Spain, we found out that the bad cough she had developed on the trip was not just a bad cough. She has lung cancer.
After further tests at Kaiser, it now appears that this is fourth stage lung cancer and that it has spread throughout her body. Her oncologist is a compassionate man but believes in being honest with his patients. “Patients with this type of cancer have about a 50/50 chance of living for a year. Statistically, less than five percent live as long as five years.
BANG ! One day we are planning our next trip. The next day, we find ourselves in a world grown cold and ominous and very temporary. Those of you whose loved ones have had this experience know what I am talking about. All the stages of grief sort of run over you at once. You're in denial one minute. Then, you are whining “Why me?” The next thing you know, you're on your knees bargaining with God. The road to acceptance is not for sissies.
Chemotherapy, the only medical option open to her at this stage, is not for sissies either. The side effects of the treatments leave her feeling nauseous, very tired and in no shape to jog around the block (or even around the house.) Chemo is an equal opportunity killer, offing the body's good cells along with the cancerous ones. Maybe the toughest part of the chemo regimen for us is knowing that it is not a cure. Barring a miracle, all we can hope for is a little more time to live and, at best, a temporary remission. of the cancer.
Kathleen, gutsy woman that she is, has managed to find a bright side to the experience. “It has changed my perspective in so many ways,” she says. “Because I know I don't have a lot of time left, I am enjoying the important things much more than I ever have. She has become closer to her kids and grandkids. She is so sensitive with them and affectionate. Kath and I have also become closer, realizing, acknowledging the value of our time together. “In a way,” she muses, “this horrible disease has become a gift.”
Always someone who planned carefully ahead, she had her twenty-year financial plan all worked out. She laughs at herself now and is quite happy having a premium glass of cabernet with her meal and paying a little extra for a fine dining experience instead of settling for a meal at Denny's.
The most significant change for both of us has been in the spiritual realm. We have always gone to church so that hasn't changed. But our relationship with God and the way we look at life has changed. Kathleen has been overwhelmed by the number of friends who have been praying for her. The promise of prayers have come from the most diverse sources, like her Hindu doctor, Maryknoll missionaries, friends of her gay son, former priests, developmentally disabled people I used to work with, a Methodist Congregation, a convent of nuns, men in prison who she has helped, our two year old grand daughter, my tennis buddies and the women in her book club. The list goes on.
I do believe in the power of prayer and that prayers are ALWAYS answered. Kathleen's Hindu physician told her “You know something? We doctors sometimes think we know everything about the human body and disease. We don't know anything. We do the best we can but ultimately, when God is ready for you, he will call for you.”
I hope that those of you who read this will join your prayers to that motley group of folks already praying for my wife, that when her time comes, she will be ready.