Comrades in cancer

I was sitting at the Regional Cancer Center waiting to be called in for my next treatment when I saw him and his wife walk out. A public official. Tucked under one arm, the white boxy folder that would hold his life from here on out – the personal health manager familiar to all cancer patients at the clinic.

While I wanted to extend my condolences for whatever diagnosis he faced, I simply smiled a greeting, allowing him personal space for dealing with his crisis. Later that day, I saw him again at a public event. In this less personal setting, I approached and asked how things were going – a general question anyone could expect. His answer of, “not as good as I would like,” the caring glances from his wife, and the knowledge of our previous encounter told me enough. I left him with wishes of strength, not pressing further, knowing when he was ready, he would share his story.

It’s heartbreaking to see another join the ranks of comrades in cancer, even more so when it’s a familiar face. I have yet to learn the details, but regardless of his battle ahead, any of us who have walked out with that same folder know the feeling of your life hanging by a thread. Suddenly your weeks revolve around doctors appointments, scans, blood tests and treatments. You readjust your step, not knowing when it will be your last, and your priorities, focusing on the only things that truly matter.

Life will seem a little out of focus for him and his family as they readjust to this new normal. Life never goes back to normal after cancer, maybe a new normal, but not the normal you knew before diagnosis, when cancer happened to other people and other families and you felt sorry for them and their hardship, but the crushing blow had not been dealt to you, nor would hang over you every day – until now.

You’ve become one with us in the armed force fighting cancer, in whichever branch of the malignant army you have been assigned.  I hope your battle is strong, short, and successful. More than anything, I wish you peace in the days ahead as you armor up and charge across fields none of us want to see, yet all too many are forced to navigate.

May God bless you and your family.

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