The Faces of Cancer

Sitting in the cancer center lobby this morning in-between appointments, I watched a couple emerge from the treatment hallways. He was carrying a black bag from the Women’s Health Focus overflowing with information leaflets. I recognized that bag. I once carried that same one. They clung to each other not wanting to be without the touch of the other, and I realized that they were newly diagnosed. She wore the same shell-shocked face that I am sure people read all over mine six months ago as I numbly moved from appointment to appointment. His bushy black beard hid much of his face, but the pain in his eyes was evident. His hand gripped hers, signaling faithfulness. “I’m here.” They sat close, shoulders touching, whispering softly. An occasional smile, a stream of words, a steady sigh. I was watching grief, and it was all too familiar. I almost broke down. She and I exchanged quiet, “hellos”, and I longed to go to her, to tell her she could do this; she could walk this road; she could beat this thing, this ugliness that had shipwrecked her life.

Emotion after emotion, memory after memory flooded me. Clinging to Brian while trying to grasp the news. Heaving sobs in the privacy of our car. Choking back the lump in my throat. Waves of fear and nausea. The strength of my husband’s arms around me as we sat in lobby after lobby grappling with this horror. This new life. Life forever changed.

There were two older men sitting in the faded chairs exchanging pleasantries. Old friends. “H’lo, John.” “H’lo, Jim.” They discussed life, farming, family, then inevitably, cancer:

“I sure wish I was back on the radiation side of things. This chemo is killin’ me more than the cancer is. Some days I’m here from nine in the morning until five at night.”

“Wheeeewwww-eee! That there’s a long day. But you’ll get through it. I’m on the other side. Just here for a checkup.”

A husband and wife came in with their father and brought their granddaughter with them. Barely toddling, I watched as she waddled through the lobby lighting smiles on gray, weary faces. It was as if someone had breathed fresh air into the room. Life.

They called me back for radiation at the same time as this child’s great-grandfather. I walked a few steps behind his shuffling feet and watched the nurse hold his belt, steadying his frail body. He stopped in the hallway, resting from this laborious task of walking.

In his book, Talking In The Dark, Steve Harper reminds us:

Life can change quickly…don’t wait for the change to occur…begin now to dig the well that leads to God’s living water, so that when your change happens, you can draw from resources that are already present.

Life changes suddenly, and no one is immune.

As I lay on the radiation table, my mind jumbled around each of these people, and I prayed for them. The older men whose life of farming had been put on hold. This 50-something couple whose world had just been shaken. This great-grandfather, too weak to walk a hallway, and this tiny child just beginning life. I prayed for peace in the midst of chaos. I prayed for sustenance and strength. I prayed for miracles. I prayed that they would see Jesus somewhere in all this, that they would run to His open arms. I prayed their wells would run deep.

And I prayed for myself. That God would use me, even if it was a gentle “hello” and a sympathetic smile to encourage a weary heart. I pray that my wells would run deep. That I would never stop running to His arms. I pray I would never stop learning lessons from others and the faces that surround my world.

2 responses to “The Faces of Cancer”

  1. You are an amazing woman, Angie. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us.
    Love, Sam


  2. Hey Ang,
    Thanks for sharing as you do. I love the conversation between the two men. I hope I’m that cute when I get older. I can imagine you sitting in the lobby, smiling to yourself, taking in the scene…reflecting to yourself…as you always do. Love you Ang. Keep smiling.


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