When words are inadequate

I wrote the musing below some time ago; it’s about someone I knew as a friend. The words in the musing came screaming back to mind as I read a recent email. The email was from a special friend whose husband has cancer. Her first email was to let me and others know that her husband was doing battle with the Big C. A subsequent email said the doctors performed surgery and felt they had rid him of the scourge – battle won. Then her most recent email said the Big C returned with a vengeance and the doctors had to admit they lost the battle once again. Her husband has no more than six months to live.

How can one convey to another who is losing her husband that they grieve for them? The loss of a loved one, especially a spouse or child, truly is unfathomable to anyone who has not suffered through that experience. Not being God, the best we can do is let the surviving spouse know that they are thought of, that they have our deepest sympathy, that we pray God gives them the strength to endure. So to my friend of the emails I offer all these yet knowing how inadequate they are.

Along with those words I also want to share an old musing with my friend and all others who have had or are having to live through that battle and the ultimate profound loss. As I said, this musing came to mind as I read about the doctors’ attempts to save her husband. While it certainly doesn’t provide solace for my friend, maybe it will let her know that others care for deeply.


Science and Time Do Not Conquer All

One can’t help but to marvel at how computers have evolved from those gigantic room-filling monsters of the 1940s to today’s ubiquitous pcs. The inroads they have made into our lives are almost unbelievable. Of course without the computer, we wouldn’t have had the internet. The combination of the PC and the internet has changed our world in a matter of a few decades.

Yet, for all the marveling we do about computers, I think we fail to recognize, as we do with computers, how far the practice of medicine has come. It is a field that touches our lives in so many ways, and its impact far exceeds anything computers by themselves have had. To say that the strides medical scientists and health professionals have made are phenomenal would be to understate the case. It wasn’t that long ago that ether and sulfa drugs were widely used. Invasive surgery back then was primitive and very limited when compared to what surgeons can accomplish today. So many common illnesses and diseases which took their toll on mankind either have been eradicated or are curable. The life expectancies we enjoy today would not be possible without the progress we have seen in the field of medicine over the past several decades.

Yet for all that, the practice of medicine and the efforts of medical scientists have not solved all our medical problems. In some cases they might arrest or slow the progression of a disease, but they can’t cure it. Some medical problems are beyond the ability of surgeons to fix. For all of the advances we see in medicine, ultimately nature is victorious – it is the one enemy that no one can defeat. And there are so many ways that nature and time can wreak havoc on our lives and bodies. One of the most frightening ways is the Big C – cancer.

All this came to mind because a friend has battled cancer, and now it seems the battle is lost, the outcome inevitable. While I have had to cope with a heart attack, it pales in comparison to what my friends, and others like him, have to endure. From the initial diagnosis, they face the prospect of a life cut short, regardless of age. They endure various therapies and fight the brave fight against this debilitating disease. They have the courage to face what are often insurmountable odds and continue.

We read about people who are battling cancer every day in our newspapers, hear about them on television, yet it is distant if it has not touched our lives or those we love and care about. Maybe we believe if we don’t think about it, don’t dwell on it, it will pass us by. That is whistling in the dark. And when someone we know – a friend, someone in our family or we ourselves are touched by this cruel hand, then it becomes all too real.

When the Big C makes itself known, words seem inadequate to express what we think and how we feel. Whatever words are spoken or are written in a trivial blog, they fail to convey what is in our hearts. They fail to completely say how we ache for the patient and their loved ones, we cry for them. We want to reach out and touch patient and cure them – but sadly we are not God. Nor can we lighten the heavy hearts of the patient’s family. So we care for them, pray for them, smile at them, wish them well. We try to learn from them – learn from their courage, learn from their persistence, learn from their experience. But in the final analysis the best we can do is love them and treasure the time we still have together.



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