This Weird Reality

I’ve been trying to write about motherhoody-type things, but it’s just not happening. I’ve always used this blog to write about my life, and right now that means writing about cancer. I feel like I should apologize for that, but it is what it is.

As it turns out, it’s weird to have a close loved one with cancer—especially of the stage IV pancreatic variety. Weird is not what I would have expected it to be, but that’s what it is. Shocking, devastating, tragic, scary, sobering, sad, daunting—those are the words I would have expected. And in some ways, it is some of those things, but weird is the word that best describes it so far.

One reason it’s weird is because it’s hard to figure out how to feel. On the one hand, you are devastated. You understand the reality of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, the dismal prognosis, the one-digit survival rate. So you feel compelled to prepare yourself for the worst.

On the other hand, you have to hold onto hope, right? Those one-digit survivors are still survivors. If them, why not her? She’s strong, otherwise healthy, and determined. So you push away timelines and statistics and focus all of your hope, faith, and will onto the idea of beating the odds.

But you can’t really do both at the same time. It takes profound mental and emotional fortitude to have any hope of beating this thing. You can’t be planning for death while hoping for life. You have to choose a mindset.

So we’re choosing hope, and asking everyone to leave negativity and hopelessness at the door. The statistics do come knocking sometimes, oh so softly. But when they do, we just draw the shades and pretend we’re not home.

Another weird thing about advanced pancreatic cancer is that conventional medicine offers practically nothing in the way of hope. According to the oncologists, chemo might buy her a handful of months. And who wants to spend their last months going through chemo?

So you turn to alternative medicine. You spend countless hours researching. You go around and around, trying to determine the credibility of practices and practitioners, with vicious voices on either side of the spectrum spouting accusations of fraud and incompetence. You get story after story of friends and family members who have lived much, much longer than their given prognoses using alternative means; yet you struggle to find actual scientific evidence that any method works reliably. You question everything, but after enough first-hand success stories, nothing sounds too far-fetched.

You surround yourself with family. You reach out for support. You think about your own mortality in a much more urgent way than usual.

You get frustrated with health insurance. Innumerable times.

You laugh. You have some somber moments, and some teary moments, but mostly you laugh. Weird, but what else can you do? Tears won’t help. Somberness is just depressing. Laughter is healing. So you laugh.

And you pray. You pray for a miracle, even though you know it doesn’t really work that way. If prayer could change outcomes, no one would ever die. Our job is to align ourselves with God’s will, not to try to bend His will to our own. So you pray for strength to fight, for guidance toward the right approach, for healing in whatever measure it can be given, for courage to handle it all, for peace with whatever the outcome. You pray to remind yourself you’re not in control. You pray because you feel the waves of everyone else’s prayers washing over you. You pray because the only one who can see over this mountain is God. You pray because it helps.

And the weirdest thing is that you still have to live your life. This worry and concern occupies a huge space in your head and heart, and yet you still have to work, to educate the kids, to do the laundry, to think about dinner. It’s really weird. You feel like you’re in an emergency where you don’t know what to do, yelling, “Somebody do something, quick!!” But there’s nothing anyone can do that’s quick. So life goes on, just with an extra large measure of uncertainty.

Like I said. Weird.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I think I can get back to writing about other things. I hope so, anyway.

One last note, though, to wrap things up:

There. I feel better.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 4

  1. Papa

    This learning stage, referred to as our “first life”, so full of treasures and tests. I think, perhaps, that the real laughter will only come when our viewpoint emanates from a higher vantage point.

  2. Judy Gregory

    Living in flux is what you are describing. Look flux up in Wiki and it will make about the same amount of sense as what you are going through. It is there, it is happening and you are all doing beautifully.

  3. Jafar Jefferson

    Your post is well expressed. How to think, how to act, what to say – there isn’t a right answer.

    I especially appreciate the insight you share about the role of prayer (rather than trying to tell God what to do).

    We feel for your extended family.

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