Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Scene from the Chemotherapy Room

I’m back taking one last shot of chemotherapy.  Two hours on Monday, followed by two more hours on Tuesday every two weeks.  Why do it, you ask?  Because I would like to attend the fifth annual “I’m not dead yet” party at Winona Lake the last weekend before Labor Day.  Can I make it?  Not likely, but you never know.  As my oncologist told me Monday, “Mike, none of us gave you more than ninety days and here you are four years later.  Who can say how long you have left?  But you won’t make May, if you do nothing.  What have you got to lose?”  Good point.

So there I was reclining in my leather chemo chair getting poisoned, when a young lady about four cubicles down came out into the chemo room, pulling her tower of heart monitoring equipment and the chemo apparatus.  I could tell that she was using a permanently installed port in her chest, to receive the needle.  Not a good sign.

She was wearing a university warm-up suit (the kind you earn, not buy) and appeared to have been very physically fit…at one time. I could immediately tell that she was probably a track person by her coordinated walk, although she was walking bent over slightly, as she headed for the bathroom, probably to throw up.  Her mother was helping to guide her by holding her by the elbow and with an arm around her waist.  It was slow going.  Her mom was gently encouraging her to take each unsteady step.

She had beautiful natural blond hair and blue eyes and had a nice figure at one time.  You could tell she had been a looker.  She wore a simple gold necklace and a hair ribbon sweeping her lovely hair back into a pony tail  that still bounced as she trudged down the hallway, shaky on her feet.

The thing that got me was the look on this once beautiful young woman’s face.  It was strained, tired, and worn-out.  I could tell that she was in pain and significant discomfort.  Each small step was hurting her and she was bravely trying to get through it and not let her mom know how bad it was. But she couldn’t hide the agony twisting her face.

 She was breathing in small, short gasps, probably because of the pain.  Her mother sensed how much pain her daughter was in and was whispering quietly to her words that I could not hear.  The mother’s face was withered with utter despair, but to her credit she was putting on a brave front for her daughter.

My cold, hard, lawyer’s heart broke as I was witness to this monumental, silent struggle being waged by mom and daughter against this terrible, relentless, almost always victorious disease. 

My nurse walked over to my recliner as mom and daughter went into the bathroom together.  Another bad sign.

I said to my nurse, “That beautiful girl can’t be 25.  Right?”

She replied, “She’s only 22 and just graduated from college.”

I said, “I hope she has something that is curable or at least treatable for years.”

She said, “I wish that were true, but it is not.  She is terribly sick.”

I said, “Some things are just not right in this world.  I’ve had most of my life.  A little short, but she has not even got started.  It is not right.  I hate this disease.”

“So do I, Mike.  I just hate what it does to my patients and their families.  The patient dies, but what few people understand is that a piece of the family dies, too.  It is tragic.  I hate it and there is not much we can do so often.  We try to manage the pain and make the patients more comfortable, but that’s it much of the time.  I do not know how the families deal with it.”

I cannot imagine how that mother will deal with her beautiful daughter never being married, never having grandchildren, never again using that marvelous athlete’s body.  She will have to try to be strong and supportive, while witnessing her daughter day-by-day lose her long-term struggle. And then she will have to bury her daughter.  Also into the grave will go a piece of mom’s heart, torn out by this disease, never to be healed. 

 It is just not right.  It is just not right.

Mike out.


  1. Mike, not a day goes by that you don't cross my thoughts. I think to myself that I will miss you, will miss reading you when you leave. I think to myself that I will certainly meet you "afterward" and that I look forward to that moment. You've been so incredibly courageous to write about your illness, your joys and your fears so openly. I thank you for having done so. And no, it is just not right. I hope you go peacefully but not until after the 5th annual '"m not dead yet" celebration.

  2. As stupid as this sounds Mike, this entry paints such an amazing picture. 'Stupid sounding' because it's tied to cancer. But the way you describe the young lady, her mother, how we've all had someone who has sadly passed from this bastard of a disease, was insightful. Made me pause and think about family and friends (including you, even though I know you only through your wife) who are fighting the good fight, and have fought it, either in victory or defeat. I pray that you will make the "I'm Not Dead Yet" party this year. Show cancer that it doesn't always call the shots. Hell, you've proven that for the last four years~ -Greg Browning

  3. beautiful commentary ... clearly heartfelt and deeply heart-touching... thank you. love and prayers with you both, janis

  4. Thankful for your prayers of intercession for those suffering! Loving you in prayer, Kristine

  5. Mike - I read the most recent blog, as you encouraged me to do at Huddle today, and look forward to reading the one you wrote last night. I am glad we've met. You have been an encouragement and a blessing to me. Your testimony and your message on Courage will stay with me a long time.

    As you look at things from the legal point of view, I do so from the theological point of view. I hope I can do so in a way that is practical and not just "spiritual" in a meaningless sense. I also realize that I can't possibly have the perspective you have because I lack the experience.

    "It is not right." That is absolutely correct. I often say, God created us to walk around naked in a Garden. Even winter is evidence that things aren't right. You can't walk around naked in Kokomo in January! Something happened in that Garden that messed us all up. It set a chain of events in motion in every part of creation - human, animal, vegetable and mineral - that has only gotten worse. Death followed in all its forms. But the One you have returned to defeated death. We know that. Though again you see through different eyes, we know that death does not get the final say. It is a consequence of that Fall in the Garden, as are our clothes. But as I'm sure you know, C.S. Lewis walked through the Shadow with his wife, then shortly thereafter he walked through the Shadow himself. Recently, while teaching at church, I realized that while we will go through the "shadow of death", right now we are in the "shadow of life." This is not real life. These are the Shadowlands. And even though you nor the young girl wants to, and in the perfect plan of God shouldn't, go through the Shadow so soon, because of Christ dying then defeating death, there is a life beyond the Shadow that is far more than any of us can even begin to fathom. That's my faith - and you have strengthened it for me.

  6. Randy, you are very kind. Thank you. I want to know what you think of the next one. out.