I’ve been having stomach issues for two weeks now, and it’s gotten to the point that I’m sort of a wreck… tired and lethargic all the time due to lack of nutrients, and grumpy and quick to anger because I’m always hungry. Earlier today I was sitting on the couch with Gracie and Cooper, when Cooper took off running and barking towards the front door (as he often does, for no reason… I joke that “he heard an earthworm moving a mile away”), and then Gracie, who was partially on my lap, followed suit and bolted after him, knocking my water glass out of my hand and sending its icy contents flying. Well, an event like this one would have normally pissed me off, but this time it sent me into a rage, and I was probably screaming expletives and definitely slamming kitchen drawers unnecessarily as I went to find a towel. Point is, some stuff’s not right inside my body at the moment (and don’t worry, I’m going to the doctor again tomorrow).
However, during these last couple weeks of mild suffering and my first time ever experiencing real, lasting hunger, I’ve been humbled to think of just how my problems stack up to that of others’. Yesterday my mom tearfully recounted an exchange between her and Edd in their bathroom, when he was just so overcome by the effects of his chemo, which included intensely painful mouth sores on his lips, inside his mouth, down his throat and, we learned later, also out the other end. The cancer and the treatments were merciless to Edd, and this was just one of the many horrible side effects he endured in his last months. It made eating very painful and obviously no longer enjoyable, if not impossible. Another of life’s pleasures snatched away from him.
Edd was saying to my mom, “I just don’t know what to do… I don’t know what else to do.”
And since he never seemed to, ever, bring this up or even consider it a possibility, my mom said to him quietly, “you could stop taking chemo, you know.”
She said Edd blinked a few times, and slowly some sort of realization washed over his face. Like he’d never thought of that before.
After a moment, he said, “…But then I’ll die.”
And they cried there in the bathroom together. It was the first time they’d considered that possibilty—giving up—letting the cancer win.
That story touched me so deeply, and like I said, humbles me. The things that man endured. The reality he lived.
And the things we complain about! It’s disgusting. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself praying the feeble prayer that God will take away my stomach virus or bacteria or ulcer or whatever the hell it is that’s causing my issues, but then I caught myself. I don’t know if I want to pray for God to take away my suffering anymore, now or in any other area of my life. Or maybe I still will, but I think I’ll understand a little better if he doesn’t, and I’ll be a little braver. People all over this world are experiencing far more unthinkable pain than you or I will maybe ever feel, and it puts things into perspective when you see that. When you watch someone live it. When you know it could happen to you, or someone you love. It helps you to not take things for granted, and to live a little more in each moment.
I have a feeling that Edd’s cancer and his suffering and his passing will be teaching me things, and also giving me courage, for many years to come.