Its never a word you want to hear, and whether you’re one of the lucky ones who have never had to witness firsthand the grueling nature of it, or you’ve been there before, there is no way to prepare for hearing it said aloud.
When I learned that my partner’s mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and that the doctors spotted it in her brain and liver and spine too, my head was spinning. I wanted to reach out and fix it, to tell her it would be okay, even if I wasn’t sure it would.
I got to work reading everything I could on the subject. I learned all about the difference between large and small cell cancers, taught myself to pronounce the word metastasis, and read every article I could about coping, and about how to support someone going through this. Eventually, after hours and hours of scrolling and thumbing through pamphlets and desperately asking everyone I could what to do I realized, there was nothing I could do besides what I was already doing.
If you’ve ever supported someone who’s loved one is battling this terrible disease, or you’ve ever cared for someone yourself, you know that it is an exhausting and terrifying thing to undertake. The waiting for test results, driving around, cooking, cleaning, anything little you can think of. No matter how much sleep I’ve missed or how little time I’ve spent at home I never get the feeling that its helping. The truth is though, that with a battle like this, just taking the little every day decisions out of your loved one’s mind is everything, even if it feels like nothing.
My partner’s family has been through this before 30 years prior when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent the treatments that were offered in those days, and needless to say it was far different than the treatments we have today. Nonetheless it was no easier for them to hear the news this time around.
Looking on the “bright side” is not something that is easy to do. I sprang into action to see to it that I did everything I could think of. I’ve reached out to every one of them as often as I can. I find myself almost feeling guilty at times, wondering if its okay for ME to feel sad too. I’ve grown close with them and seeing her battle this, even if it is the first time for me, feels profoundly heavy for me too.
I lost two of my grandparents to cancer and it was frightening to see as a teenager. I remember how brave my grandfather was, you’d never have known he was sick. It wasn’t until this year that I realized the weight that he was carrying at the time. Even now I have an aunt who has also been battling this, and words can’t express just how much I admire her bravery too.
As an adult its different to observe. The emotions feel deeper and the situation feels more like something I should be able to control, even if its not. I hope that one day if this disease ever shows up in my body, that I am half as brave and beautiful as this woman is in her battle. Whether you are fighting yourself, or you are loving someone through the fight from any angle, dont give up. You’re doing better than you think you are.
As the days tick by and I watch the disease take its toll on everyone involved I feel both increasingly helpless, and increasingly motivated. For the past few years I’ve gotten involved in the Relay for Life. Helping raise funds and attending the relay itself. Buying raffle tickets and spreading the word to family and friends. The event has always been understandably close to their hearts, but it feels different this time around.
As a long time fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, this woman fought for others even as her disease had faded away and she was cancer free. So today the tables are turned, and we fight for her. Please click here to read her story in her own words, and to give a donation if you too want to give to the fight against this terrible monster.