Today Andrea had her Chemo treatment, and today we saw two women enter the chemo room for their first time. One was elderly with her daughter crying by her side, as the nurse led her mom back to the Lazy Boy. The other was a young woman, and her husband was receiving her information packet before she starts chemo next week. As I sat there with Andrea and watched these two families, I could not help but think about the harshness of the chemo room. I told Andrea it is hard to watch someone start chemo. To know they are about to suffer. My thoughts went back to our first days. In a way I'm proud to be a veteran and want to offer support to the new recruits. God has given us the opportunity to still be here and even if we don't like it Andrea and I have a wealth of experience that few possess. God has given us a unique opportunity and we don't want to waste it. We know it is by the grace of God that we are still here, one of the few to survive this long and still be in the chemo room. I want to go to them and help, to encourage them to fight the good fight.
As the nurses lead them into the chemo room, we stop and offer a prayer for them knowing the pain, sickness, fatigue and struggle that lies ahead for them. Our hearts ache for them. I hope they know the Lord and have His grace and mercy to fall back on.
Many of us, if not all, will face very difficult times in our life, but there is something different about the chemo room. You are taken from a very private experience and suddenly thrown into a room of strangers to face life’s biggest fear. One moment you are alone with your doctor being told you have cancer and the next you are in a room full of people. When we first started this journey I wished they had private chemo rooms where you did not have to face this in public. But I have come to understand there is support in the openness of the chemo room. There, with you, are others who can relate to you like no one else. Suddenly strangers can be your closest confidante. You have a bond and camaraderie with those around you. You soon find out that those fears and questions you struggle with are common to the person next to you. There you see others dealing with the same doubts, fears and questions and you find a comfort being in the room. I cannot explain the feeling of dread and shock when you realize you are a cancer patient. I'm not a good enough writer to be able to express that feeling. It is sadness, disbelief, a heaviness that settles upon you, it is your cross to bear. I guess that best describes it, literally like a cross on your shoulders. Heavy, digging into your skin, painful and far more than you think you can bear. You have a sense of hopelessness as you feel the weight upon your back. "I can't do this, there is no way." Meanwhile the atmosphere of the chemo room shows you the harshness of what you face. You want to run and hide, to just make it all go away, but it won't, it can't. It is not a dream or nightmare as you wish. This is your life, a cruel mistake but yours.
These two women, one in her 60's the other far too young to be facing a life with cancer, neither deserving what they are about to go through, were both about to be challenged to their very core of who they are and what they believe. I want to take it away as much as they want it to be gone. The dread I see in each step they take, the slight tremble of their hands, the quiver of the mouth, and the tear in their eye, all speak to those already in the room. The thoughts and fears that are behind these signs, the unspoken words, are understood to those in the chairs. There is a silent communication that takes place between those new women and those in the chairs. There is no joy in gaining someone on the team, there is no comfort knowing what they are about to go through. It is a bond born in suffering, written in pain, and signed in fear. Everyone there knows exactly what these two new women are feeling. Their lives are suddenly shaken and turned upside down. Still trying to understand what is happening to them, they have no time to stop and think. The chemo must start and you are suddenly in a fight for your life and only later you will catch your breath and try to make sense of what is happening. That is why your foundation is key. Your faith, your beliefs, that is what catches your fall. God your creator, He is there. I close my eyes and imagine the angles in that room, unseen to us but there. They offer comfort, hope, and speak to the assurance that life and death are in God's hands. Though we face difficulties, thankfully, we have a loving God who is faithful. I love the way the Psalmist describes God's love, "Unfailing love." I just love that word unfailing; it is so not human, so fantastically wonderful and perfect. Along with the great difficulty of the chemo room comes the pure joy of drawing close to God, and finding out that the Bible is not a collection of nice stories or wise sayings, but it is life itself, and the truth we seek.
I'm comforted by these verses and I pray them for these two women. We may never meet again but today our lives were slammed together. May God strengthen them and comfort them. I pray they will experience a closeness to God and know He has never forsaken them. I pray God will give us the opportunity to offer them some encouragement and hope. Because as scary as cancer is it is not beyond God’s reach; it is not bigger than the God we serve, and that is the hope we use to get up each day and walk back into the chemo room.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.