Back in July, the face of cancer was a scary one. It was normal on the outside, but very fearful and nervous on the inside. It was a face of the unknown. A face of uncertainty.
Chemo was hard. Those three rounds, with three weeks in between, were brutal. Always waiting for a fever to come. Dreading hospital visits and stays if the fever came. Keeping fluids in him. Making sure he kept weight on so that he didn’t have any issues. The hiccups. The hair loss. The splotchy skin. All of it. The first few months of cancer were hard on us all. The faces of cancer rested in our children who lost their summer plans. Who started school with a dad who was losing his hair. Who were told to “be quiet, let dad rest”, more times than they wanted or needed to hear. The faces of myself, a wife who has always been the strong one, yet became absolutely exhausted from life and everything that cancer brought to that life. The faces of friends and family, who jumped in to help in providing meals for 4 months, money to get us from here to there, and groceries that still pack our freezers. The face of cancer looked kind of “normal” from the outside looking in. We were handling it just fine.
But now. The face of cancer is more real than ever.
This face of cancer hurts. From the inside out. Literally. Now, looking from the outside in, you see the pain. You see the months and weeks of treatment all coming to the surface. The tears, the illness, the frustration, the pure pain of it all. Right there in the open for all to see. If you saw him on the streets, you might think he’d gotten into a fight in an alley. Ha, I wish that was it! Instead, this is a fight of a different kind.
His throat and neck, face and nose feel just about as bad as this photo looks. Painful. He can hardly eat. He’s dropped so much weight, we just hope to keep him from having to have a feeding tube placed. His skin peels off daily, and bleeds when the radiation mask is bolted down over him.
This, my friends, is the side of cancer that so many people don’t see. I, personally, have never seen anyone with cancer look like this. Most don’t have 66 radiation treatments, twice a day for 33 days. But even with radiation, people still may look like this, but we don’t see it. And now I understand why. Miguel is in bed when he is not at radiation. He has to sleep off the medications he’s on during the treatments, because the pain of the proton rays don’t hurt, but the mask being bolted over these open and raw wounds does. Then if we’re not on top of things, he can get nauseated from the pain, which ends in him throwing up anything he has eaten (or drank — he’s pretty much down to protein and nutritional drinks instead of solids), which means more pain in his chest and throat. A night in the ER from one such event last weekend. It’s the face of cancer that stinks. Flat out stinks.
The kids now don’t know how to treat him. They show him love, but one is understandably nervous around him. One doesn’t like the rawness of his flesh. One just avoids it but loves him anyway.
My own face is weary too. You probably have literally no idea how weary. But it doesn’t matter. My husband has cancer. No matter how weary I am, my husband has CANCER.
He doesn’t go anywhere with us now, as he never feels up to leaving his bed, much less the house. Unless it’s to appointments for fluids, radiation, or to see his oncologist. Thanksgiving will probably be a blur for him. He probably won’t even remember this whole last month or so. This face of cancer stinks. As I said.
Treatments end next week. Chemotherapy ended last week. He has 10 more treatments, if all goes as planned. Four days of a break this weekend and then three days next week. Then comes the long recovery process. From what we hear, it’s a long road to full recovery.
And then the face of cancer, at least mine, fears it coming back and having to do all of this all over again one day.
With the faces cancer brings, God still brings joy and peace. He knows the pain. He knows the fear. He knows the future and the worries that lie within us. And for that, I shall sleep with peace tonight, and deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.
If you know someone with cancer, be gentle with them, even when you think things may be “normal” for them. If they don’t respond to you, it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that they may not remember to. Or that they simply just don’t have it in them to even look at their phone for a few days. Or maybe, it’s deeper than that. They still need you, things may not be getting better, even when the end is near. Things may be downright brutal and horribly awful. Their face my be burnt to a crisp and their insides fried as well. This is the real face of cancer, and while people may not want to see it, this is what is real. This is what we’re facing. It’s our worst nightmare brought to life.
Lord be with us through the end of this mess, and let us share the good, the bad, and the ugly, so that people can understand that through faith, every bit of this is able to be handled.
God heals. From the inside to the outside. Always.