Friday, May 24, 2013

In Case You Are Thinking That Cancer is Cured....

There are over 12,000,000 cancer survivors in the United States.  I am one, and know a number of others personally.  I also know 11 people going through cancer right now, including two of my step sisters.  Some of them are doing quite well.  So it might be tempting to think, "Well, look at all those survivors.  We have cancer on the run.  It is effectively cured."

Well, in case you are tempted to think that way, I am going to tell you a little about Melanie, mostly in the words of her recently widowed husband.  Melanie was pretty young - maybe 40 something (I hate guessing people's ages).  She found out last fall that she had stomach cancer.  Since then, she and her husband have been living a hellish existance.  They have tried many things, traveled far, and spent a lot of money since then looking for a cure.  It became clear a month or so ago that Melanie was not going to survive this, and after months of horrific suffering, she passed away Wednesday.

I copied part of their entry from their Caring Bridge site, posted May 8.  She was getting hospice but still suffering a lot, and this is what her husband wrote:  "Mel continues to have vomiting "spells" or "fits" through the day and almost continually at night. I don't know what is so different about night time, but they really hit her hard through the night. The meds that may work for nausea have no power to stop the vomit reflex which is involuntary, immediate and with little warning. Almost like a sneeze: just about the time you are aware of it, it's out."

"No nausea occompanies the vomiting which is good in a way and things will calm down for an hour or two during the day and let her get some sleep. One thing that the vomiting does is make her throat feel parched so she has an insatiable desire for ice water. She can't keep it down and comes back up after a few minutes. The faster she drinks, the faster it comes back up. The more it comes up, the more thirsty she feels and the more water she drinks. She has had to learn how to discipline herself to eventually stop drinking water, utilize things to keep her mouth moist and hydrate through the IV. When she follows that recipie, the vomiting will slow down amply enough to sleep, etc. But sleep has been hard to come by lately. She continues to lose weight, though we did not weigh in this week. Unsure we need another bad number. I'm not sure what to expect next. It's a wait and see thing."

"We cuddled today which is unusual. Had almost an hour of calmness with rain tapping on the roof. She just pulled my arm over top of her and seemed comforted. A tearful moment for me that began sliding into sleep until the unconfortability of her bed forced us up. But somewhere in the silence, the stillness - and being a little fearful of the things I might witness in the last days, I thought it would be acceptable for her to slip into the next life right then, in my arms with no struggle or drama. I guess I hope it can be like that."

So, if you are tempted to think, "Yeah, we got cancer on the run," stop for a second and think of what this couple went through together - one of them in desperate sickness, the other suffering emotionally for doing all he could humanly do and knowing that he was effectively helpless to change the outcome.  Both of them have / had very strong religious beliefs and Bob in certain that Melanie is at peace and in paradise now.  But he is left behind on this earth, prematurely widowed, and exhausted from being the supportive one, and from watching his wife's horrific suffering.

So, no, cancer is not cured.  Individuals, very fortunate ones, may be, but not cancer on the whole.  We have made great strides, great progress, but there is still much to learn and do before we can proclaim victory.

2 comments:

Happyone said...

Oh that is so sad and I'm so sorry!!

Racn4acure said...

It is terribly sad. I have been following their story for six months in Caring Bridge, and it is heartbreaking. But her suffering is now over, and she is at peace.