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What Cancer Looks Like

Posted Jan 27 2009 8:10pm

I went to visit my Uncle last week.  He has been in hospice care for about two weeks.  I hadn't seen him since June.   He was diagnosed with Lung Cancer in the early Spring, and has had several radiation and chemo treatments for the three tumors he possessed (one in his lung, one in his esophagus, and one in his brain).   Unfortunately, because he has been unable to keep any food down (the tumor in the esophagus is causing a blockage) he has been vomiting for the last several months, and at this point is 120 lbs.  My Uncle used to be about 250 lb man with a love for food, any kind of food.   Do you realize he is half of his original body weight?   So you can understand how shocking and disturbing it was to see him so frail last night.   I mean, you could actually see his the bones in his face, he was so drawn.  He was bald,  from treatment.  He used to have a remarkable head of curly hair, pretty much a white man with a nice afro for most of his life.    He was able to sit up in bed, but apparently due to the loss of muscle he has not been able to stand on his own for the last few days.   Treatments have ceased due to low blood cell counts.  Doctors say he he may only have a month to live.

Our visit was brief and very uncomfortable.  What do you say to a man who is dying and who you don't know if you will see again?  I guess you don't have to say anything, and the important thing is to just be there.  But the truth is, my family has never really been close to my Uncle.  He wasn't a very good husband to my Aunt, and would often choose to sleep or watch t.v. at family functions rather than interact with us.  It is hard to know what to feel about his illness due to not being connected to him in the first place. 

One thing I know for sure, was that seeing what cancer has done to him completely scared me.    To see what cancer looks like when it has taken over someones body, and caused them to deteriorate to the point that they are near death is an image that I cannot escape.   I have never seen someone so close the dying before.  I walked out of the hospice and found it hard to breathe, being consumed by anxiety and fear of that being my future.   The idea that what is killing my Uncle has been in my body, and could return overwhelms me with fear.   

I just hope that my Uncle's final days give him some sort of peace, and that he will soon be at rest so that he does not need to suffer like this any more because nobody should.

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