Cancer – there’s always hope, except when there isn’t… A lesson in helplessness

by Jill Kincaid

The first response I got to my first blog last week was from a man who has lost his wife to cancer and is still wondering what, if anything, they could have done differently.

That’s a question that many of us co-survivors have asked. It’s perfectly natural to feel that way, and to ask that question, but it’s not a fair question. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to beat cancer. Sometimes the unthinkable is your reality.

We live in a society where we are always hearing about some new miracle drug or breakthrough treatment. Surely there is someone somewhere that has the answer to our diagnosis. It’s the American way to overcome impossible statistics and pull out a miracle in the end. (And I’ll be the first to tell you that they ARE releasing new drugs all the time and there is almost always hope… but not always.)

One of the hardest things in life to deal with is when an oncologist tells you there is an expiration date on your life. Whether it is 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years, it is a horrible thing to have to hear. My sister Karen said the most horrific thing she ever experienced was having to tell our parents she had 2 weeks to live.

Sometimes cancer patients have an option of every treatment available before they are out of options, and sometimes they find the cancer too late and tell you there is simply nothing they can do. Either way, it is a heartbreaking experience to hear that news, and one few of us are prepared for.

I know this isn’t exactly a cheery thing to read, and I apologize. But I want to be real with you. And if you stay with me each week, I promise I WILL have plenty of hope filled stories in the future, but today, this is the point on my mind… helplessness.

Cancer = a feeling of helplessness. A realization that no matter what you do, no matter what the odds of beating it are, you are not in control of the final outcome. The people I meet in chemo are some of the wisest most peaceful people on the planet. I love spending time with them, I love our talks, they teach me so much about faith.

So how do we maintain our faith and keep hope alive? For me, that is coming alongside those patients still in the fight. I don’t have to be helpless against cancer, I can be helpful. When you are a Chemo Buddy, your job is to be a light in that scary darkness. A great equalizer against the fear that a cancer diagnosis brings. When a patient meets a Chemo Buddy and realizes that you are there for them, for whatever they need, and there is absolutely nothing in it for you, the atmosphere shifts.

A spark is ignited.

Smiles bloom.

And for a moment in time, cancer does not win. Goodness wins. Faith wins.

My mantra with my sister during her illness was that she would never have to go through any of this alone. Every doctor appointment, every radiation treatment and every chemo. Never alone. Because alone is where fear takes root and strangles hope.

And that also has become the mantra of Chemo Buddies, “because no one should ever go through chemo alone.”

Helplessness, meet helpfulness… and hope lives on.

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Chemo Buddies is a 501(c)3 non profit organization that is made possible through private donations by people like you.

Posted in blog, death and dying, Hope, Karen