We three sat in the doctor’s waiting room, my son, my brother and I. We sat in silence, but in our minds we are screaming in fear. So many conflicted thoughts all trying to find their places. Hope and brightness battling with depression and reality. Futile attempts to be positive overshadowed by what we knew to be true.
This was the day we would learn if my brother’s cancer could be cured or if he is terminal. He was weighed and the vitals taken. He sat upon the bed in the tiny room, a pale and lonely looking figure. My son and I took chairs on the opposite side of the room and shot him timid and stealthy glances. I knew he was terrified.
The doctor walks in and shakes my brother’s hand. His voice is very casual and friendly as he asks, “So, how have you been feeling? Are you having any pain?”
At that point, my mind raced over the last week. Every day, my brother had been getting stronger. Twenty days of chemo can be devastating on the body, but he was bouncing back. He gained most of his lost weight back, was able to walk and be more self-sufficient, and most of the pain and stomach upset was gone. Our hopes rose with every day as he appeared to be getting stronger and healthier. But, still, there were times we would exchange a glance and in his eyes I could see that he still had doubts. He admitted to me his lingering fear that this time he might not be able to win. I know he was conflicted. He wanted to believe his lessening of pain and his weight and strength gain meant the cancer was giving up.
My brother’s answer to the doctor’s question was a simple, “I’m feeling great. I can walk now and have no stomach upset. I am getting stronger every day and have almost no pain.”
That’s when it happened. The doctor said, “I’m glad to hear it but I’m very surprised. I’m very sorry to have to tell you that things are not looking good. The main mass has increased and is putting a lot of pressure on the intestines and bowels. There are new tumors on the spine and on your hip. You have a new, large tumor on your lung. Chemo doesn’t seem to be stopping it, but it did slow it down. Most people would be in considerable pain at this point.”
I was both shocked and not surprised at the same time. I think when he started getting stronger, I was feeling so hopeful that all would be well. I thought he had beaten this horrible illness yet again. He beat it 26 years ago and I thought he had been victorious again! But, I was informed enough about cancer that I also suspected this battle might be one that could not be beaten.
The nurse teared up. Even in my own shock and sadness, I thought that was a great testament to how much the people here cared. The entire staff at the Mountain States Tumor Institute had been fantastic.
My brother went very white, but he held himself together. He faced the news bravely. He asked what was to happen next. We were told there was another treatment to try that gave him a 30% chance to slow the progression enough to extend his life by a month or two. If that worked they estimated three to five months. If it didn’t work it was more like two to three months.
Now, my brother faces his final journey. Far too young at the age of forty-eight. Cancer, as many other illnesses, has no care for age. It really makes you think, doesn’t it? For now, I’m trying to not think too much.