September 2014 was a living nightmare. My Uncle Randy had been sick the majority of the summer, living with increasing pain. The doctor dropped the death sentence on my uncle and it was as if the entire world shattered.
“It’ll be okay.”
“This isn’t the end.”
These phrases rolled around in my head like a penny spiraling down one of those plastic grocery store wishing wells. They aren’t words that work well, when your uncle is confined to a hospital bed. Sorry fails the person I loved as their world comes crashing off its axis. Instead, we said, “You’re not alone.” I’m not sure who started it, but we all took it up like an anthem. Because that is what matters when you’re in the trenches with the person you love as they fight against a losing battle. Time isn’t on your side, and as the clock hand strikes midnight the uglier it gets.
Pancreatic Cancer is one of the deadliest cancers and is one of the hardest to diagnose. It emaciates the body, and can eventually rob the individual of the ability to walk without aid. It will rack the body with an intense pain that drugs can barely take the edge off. Food becomes a thing of the past. The struggle to use the bathroom brings embarrassment because they can no longer go on their own. It steals their independence and their pride.
My family spent hours with my uncle those last few weeks, rotating out like clockwork as he slowly became bedridden. What kept us going and what kept him calm were puzzles, music, visitors, and The Three Stooges. To find laughter and distraction in hell is a godsend. If you are going through this it is okay to laugh. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be mad and frustrated. This isn’t something you need to do alone. Take advantage of the counselors that are offered. Take advantaged of online support groups. And remember it’s okay to take time for yourself, to pull away somewhere quiet and just be.
My uncle lived thirteen more months after diagnosis. He was fifty-seven. I know the doctors and hospitals are scary things. But please do not ignore your pain, your fatigue, your depression. And never stop fighting to find someone to listen if you can’t get a diagnosis. You are important.
Cancer in itself is devastating, and money isn’t the only avenue to help those who are afflicted. While research is imperative to finding better treatment and a cure, it is also as important to keep hope alive. Many cancer centers have volunteer opportunities, and take in donations such as puzzles and books and knitting to help keep patients and their caregivers occupied during treatment. Never forget that small things make a difference when you are living in a world of darkness.