A Reflection on My Experience in the Cancer Ward Today

Today, well yesterday now (as I write this), February 17th, 2015 I went in for my annual CT scan to make sure that I am still cancer free. For those who don’t know I was diagnosed with a rare and typically terminal cancer called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor sarcoma (DSRCT). After some hard chemo, surgery, and more chemo I was declared cancer free for the first time the day of my resection surgery on May 6th, 2010 (I was originally diagnosed in November, 2009). After some sweat and anxiety today, shared by my wife and myself, I did indeed get the CT scan, and I got the results from my medical oncologist; he said: ‘Your scans look clear, you are good to go.’ Praise the Lord, I am still cancer free; it has been five years now. All I can say is God’s grace! For the rest of this post I want to reflect upon my experience (it is the same one that I experience every time I go through this from year to year now), and what it is like to walk back into the cancer clinic where I almost died [they never verbalized this, but it was pretty obvious at one point] (from the side effects of the chemo).

homelessThe most striking thing for me as my wife and I walk into the lobby of the oncology center on the seventh floor of OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, OR is the array of broken souls sitting in their chairs waiting for their numbers to be called; called so they can go back and start ingesting the poison that is intended to kill their cancer (with the full realization that in the process everything ‘gets killed’ in the body too). The feeling of hopelessness is palpable as we walk into this big elongated room, with big picture windows opening up to the sun-shining city of Portland. One guy stood out to me in particular; he looks like a salty old merchant marine or something, and instead of a black eye patch over his left eye, he has this big black tumor protruding out of his face just under his left eye situated closely to the side of his nose–he looks broken to me, worn out, like he has lost hope. The room is full; next to the salty marine, a younger guy with an Army sweatshirt is sitting there. He too is obviously there to receive the elixir of liquid mixed up to hopefully save his life; his skin is jaundiced, yellowish in tint, but he seems like he still has some energy left, maybe a glimmer of hope about him, or at least he seemed to be trying. The rest of the room just blurred together after this; mostly older people today, and most of them facing various protocols, but all with the same hope: they all want to live; they all want to beat the beast that has become intertwined and somewhat one with their bodies. I know that they feel like this, because that’s how I felt too, when I was the one sitting in those chairs; not as someone who was hoping my scans would come back clean for the fifth year in a row, but as one who was hoping to hear for the first time (since diagnosis) that there is no evidence of disease, that I was indeed cancer free.

As my wife and I walked in, we checked in, sat down among the masses of the cancerous, and I hoped that I could, once again, walk out of there not blending back in, but standing out as someone who had indeed made it out with a clean bill; I did. But I still feel broken for these people, knowing what they are going through even tonight! I get tempted to forget about them; it would be easier to just leave them there behind those walls, the walls that cordon them off from the ‘living.’ But I can’t, they need to be saved; they need to be prayed for, cared for, interceded for. So I will pray; I hope you will too! I am praying for the seventh floor at Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, OR; I’d encourage you to pray for the cancer wards in your area, and remember that your neighbors are there. amen.

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