Reading the River Styx: Observations on Cancer, Life, Death and Treatment

A colleague writes: “On the one hand things are going well, in that the treatments haven’t killed me, but are apparently stomping out the cancer cells. Over 35 radiation doses I will receive 70 Grey of radiation, which is at the high end of what seems to be given. The chemo doses are once a week and seem less onerous. But the combination is something to behold… I have to eat through a tube in my stomach. I can still swallow but it hurts some, and my mouth feels raw and irritated. And I am weak, and getting weaker.  I have 16 treatments to go. Matters will get more difficult as time goes on and then begins a period of recovery. Hopefully by late January I’ll be more or less in decent shape.

We had hoped to have Christmas in Delaware, but it seems that is not an option, so Kellee and Matthew have welcomed us to stay in Boston for Christmas. The Family will gather and the frail old man (me) will be, as always, surrounded by love and attention, provided I mind my manners.

So it seems to me I’m in the position of the space capsule being sent out around the moon, just about the disappear from contact and not to be heard from much until I come out the other side from behind the moon. You may not hear much from me in the next several weeks. It’s OK. Contact will be re-established (unless of course crushed by an asteroid or strange beast lurching towards Bethlehem, or other cosmic events). (I’ve been watching too much SiFi.)

I’m learning a lot about “just being here.” There is really nothing I can do to make this all go away, or even keep hope alive that it is all for the good, or whatever.  It just is.  Having given myself over to the “protocol” for this particular cancer treatment, I have to let go being pissed off, upset, sad, angry, blah blah blah, and just do it. It is not a time to be sorry for myself, or even for those I love who amazingly put up with me.  And while I pray a lot, my prayer are not for release, but for endurance. This is the race I have to run, and there it is.” More.

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About The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson

Ordained to the priesthood in December, 2010.
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