Cancer is the Great Equalizer

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Feb 26, 2013 in Family Stuff

I mentioned in my last post that there was a health crisis in my family that had greatly affected our lives.

My brother Ken was diagnosed in August 2011 with cancer.

Lung cancer.

Stage 4 lung cancer.

An otherwise healthy, 38-year-old non-smoking man who has served nearly 20 years as a local police officer.  One day he believes he has a sinus infection and cough.  The next day he has a terminal illness with an extremely high mortality rate.

So what did we do about it?

We prayed.  Hard.  And we all dropped everything to make sure that Ken got to his treatments.



We held a benefit to help raise money for Ken and his family.  You see, not only does Ken have lung cancer, but his wife has multiple sclerosis with seizures.  Leaving her unable to drive – or even function most days.  Bills pile up.  Care must be given.

The cancer had spread to his brain.  And his spine.

But with treatment, it seemed to slow down.  Even retreat.

For a while, anyway.

We thought he had won – all the while knowing somewhere in the back of our minds that the cancer was really hiding out in his bloodstream, waiting to make another appearance.

And of course, it did.

And so just a few weeks ago, the cancer returned.  His medication is no longer working. And the cancer started to spread again.  To his pelvis.  And spine.  And a new tumor in his lung…

So we have started treatment again.  I say “we” because this is a fight the whole family is in on.  More chemotherapy.  More scans.  More prayers.

My mother was having difficulty understanding how the cancer spreads and how the treatment works.

Since she is a gardener, I explained to her that the body is like an healthy lawn.  But then a small patch of weeds forms – like dandelions (except dandelions are too pretty to represent cancer – picture the ugliest, gnarliest weed you think of – brown with thorns – prickly to the touch).  At first, the weeds are just in that one spot.  And if you find them quickly and yank them out – roots and all – odds are, they won’t come back.

But if they have a chance to go to seed and spread in a strong wind…those seeds are everywhere.   You can try to pull the weeds out one at a time as they pop up across your lawn.  But the seeds are still there – under the surface.  Waiting for a chance to take over your lawn.

If you really want to get rid of the weeds, you have to apply a nasty weed killer.  Which also kills some of the lawn.  Makes it brown and weak.  But if you are lucky…really lucky…the grass grows back healthy.  And the weeds do not.

Here’s hoping the healthy Ken wins.

And having said that, let me dare to be selfish for just a minute.   Just one minute, and I’ll go back to praying with all my might.

I know that this could have just as easily been me.  Why not me?  There are just two of us, my brother and I.  Why him?  How did I escape the gnarly weed?

How can I support my brother during this dark, dark, time?  I can’t say I know what he feels like.  I can’t say I understand.  What can I possibly say?  What can I possibly do in such a situation so out of my control?

Have you ever been in a room where chemo is administered?  Where people who are only wisps of their former selves sit and pass the time while poison drips into their veins?  Men.  Women.  Old.  Young.  Black. White.  Asian. Hispanic.  Rich.  Poor.  Children hugging the same dolls that my healthy daughter holds when she goes to sleep at night.  What do these people have in common?  Not much really.  Other than the gnarly weed taking over their bodies.

It could be any of us.  It IS any of us.

Okay – selfish time is over.  Back to praying.  Love you, Ken!


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