I was already sick when it happened. Sicker than I’d ever been. High fever, cough, aches all throughout my body.
He went from having no pain to intense pain in a matter of hours. He went from walking fine and taking care of me in my illness to limping and barely being able to stand for more than a few minutes at a time. And it happened over night. Quick.
He put on a pretty good face when others were around, but even they could tell. He took pain meds when he never takes pain meds. He was hurting.
And it broke my heart.
The tumor in his leg bone suddenly started to cause him intense pain. And the reality of cancer sunk a little deeper into my bones, or more accurately into my lungs.
In Chinese medicine the lungs are the seat of grief, and it’s no surprise that my grief-heavy lungs were unable to fight off the illness which quickly turned into pneumonia.
This was the first time that cancer itself really caused my husband pain. He’d had small superficial tumors which had annoyed him before, and he’d had pain from drug side effects, but this was the first real intense pain from cancer itself. And that, my friends, was scary.
We’ve been very lucky, blessed, grateful that Bryan really hasn’t felt too bad since starting this whole cancer journey. His quality of life hasn’t suffered much. We’ve had nearly three years of cancer and only short seasons of pain mostly caused by drugs. But, this was different.
Cancer has been something that I knew theoretically he could die from, that I knew he was likely to die from. But even on those days when it felt very real and when I was being very realistic, it still felt sort of far off. This pain in his leg made it feel close.
I realized suddenly that cancer causes pain, that cancer eats and kills and destroys. It’s not just that drugs and treatments cause pain, it’s that cancer itself can.
The speed at which the pain came on also terrified me. It didn’t happen slowly or gradually. It was sudden. It was quick. And I found myself asking could this cancer attack his heart, his liver, his kidneys, just as suddenly? Could he wake up tomorrow with unbearable pain in a vital organ? Could he wake up tomorrow without the use of a vital organ at all?
These questions take my already labored breath right out of my lungs. They rip at my heart and make me want to choke back tears every time I look at Bryan. Every time he pulls me close. Every time he smiles at me.
His leg is better now, thanks to a strong dose of radiation. The pain is better. But his tumors aren’t shrinking. At this point the doctors are just guessing at what might work. It’s all theory. No one knows.
On Monday Bryan will start a round of chemo just for one week. There’s a theory that it could help. Not to cure the cancer – no one really thinks chemo can do that with melanoma – but help set his system up for success for the next treatment we will try. An experimental drug trial.
I want to keep trying whatever we can try. I want him to do whatever they will let him. I want to follow whatever theory we can, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, one of them will work. But I’m also tired of feeling like my husband is a lab rat. Tired of it all being guess work and theory. I wish I knew something would work.
I really thought this last treatment would work. I had so much hope for it. But, it hasn’t worked. It’s not working. I’m having to face that head on. And my body hasn’t handled it well. I’m sick and I’m tired. And I feel broken.
But I keep coming back to 2 Corinthians 4:7-10:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
I feel like that. I feel like a clay jar. Fragile. Chipped. Weak. And I pray that God’s power might be revealed in my weakness. Because although I am hard pressed, perplexed, struck down, I am not abandoned. I am not alone. My soul knows that so well. I am hurt, I am grieving, I am scared, I am frightened, I am weary, weak, and sick. But I am not destroyed. And no matter what comes I know we will not be destroyed.
To say that death has no sting feels like a lie. Even just the threat of death and separation stings my heart and lungs with pain. But I know, I trust, I believe, I feel that there is victory even in the sting of death. That the victory is just as real as the sting and the pain.
I carry around death, but I also carry around life.
And though I walk through a valley of death I know that I am not alone, the spirit of the living God walks with me. There is comfort there. Even in the pain. Even in the hurt. My cup is full. Full of life and love and so much gratitude.
I have the best husband a girl could ever ask for and it has been goodness and mercy and grace to me that I have had more than ten years with him.
And I know, surely, no matter what comes that goodness and mercy and grace will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever.
Rejoicing in the journey,