It’s that word! The one that no one ever wants to associate with, until you have no choice.
Well that unspoken word crept up on me out of nowhere like a shadow in the dark.
It was just a regular, boring Thursday until I got the call that he was in the hospital. I was told he was rushed to the hospital due to anemia. I knew better. Because the very last time I saw him he was pale, thin and frail.
The big strong guy I knew all my life, who towered over me with his broad shoulders and husky voice, was no longer there. I did my best to hide my surprise at his gaunt face and weak body. I joked about how he couldn’t gain a pound and I couldn’t lose a pound! In my mind I wrestled with the thoughts, ”Where did he go? What is happening?”
It wasn’t long before I knew the answer to my questions. Everyone seemed to tip toe around the word. What is really wrong with him I kept asking? What did they find? Despite my longing to know the truth, I really didn’t want to hear it. But there was no avoiding it. I knew it was coming sooner than later.
I kept reaching out to him and he appreciated the phone calls, but warned me that we were not allowed to visit. As hard as that was, I honored his wishes.
Finally, after three very long days of feeling like I was in a dark hole, there was a dim light at the end of a long tunnel. I got the word that we could visit.
I grabbed the cards I had driven down to college for my daughter to write a loving message in and my son to add his sentiments, the “Dam It” doll we bought and our own card filled with a little humor to maybe brighten his day. I snatched up the car keys and the hubby and I headed to the hospital.
I braced myself as we followed the daunting route through the hospital to his room. What were we going to find I thought to myself? We were silent as we read the signs and followed the directions. I could hear myself breathing in and exhaling, as to almost catch my breath.
As we came up to the room I could hear the doctor talking to him. I heard him say, “You know your situation.” I knew that couldn’t be good. So we stood outside nervously waiting to go in. As the doctor passed us on his way out, I put on my best game face, took a deep breath and gave him a big Hello!
At first I was surprised at how he was behaving; argumentative, angry, complaining about the hospital, the doctors, the nurses and just plain ornery. It took about 45 minutes before he settled down.
That’s when he began to confide in me. To tell me how scared he was and how he didn’t want to live like this. I tried my best to reassure him, to give him hope. I went right into “mother” mode and started to assist him with the IV wires, help him into the bathroom and just sit and talk with him.
As I sat there making small talk with him and trying to keep the conversation light, I noticed the cross hanging from his neck. I stared at it for a few moments before I caught myself.
Our visit ended and we wished him well and told him we would we were available if there was anything at all he needed. I kissed his hollow cheek, wrapped my arms around his thin shoulders and told him I would talk to him later.
The day proved to be quite draining for me as I wrestled with all the thoughts that were swirling around in my head. Why him? Why our family? Again?
And that’s when I felt the light on me, almost like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I thought about the cross around his neck. This was in God’s hands now. I can’t carry this burden of guilt for being happy or healthy, there was no one to blame, no specific reason why this happened. All we can do is lift it up to Him with prayers, hold true to our faith and hope, hope for the best possible outcome.
So, although the word never came out of anyone’s mouth. We all knew what it was. The words oncologist, port and Pet scan did. And with that we all knew what the next couple of months meant for him and for all of us.