A year ago this week, my sister was diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer. She called my cell phone immediately after the diagnosis to give me the heartbreaking news, as I sat at my husband’s hospital bedside, where he had undergone a left hip replacement. I was stunned. She, her husband, and their children were in shock, and our whole family could not believe that at 78 years old, she had lung cancer.
We all knew she had not been feeling up to par, and that she had gone to her Primary Care Physician, more times than normal, complaining of chest pain. She had no cough, nor spitting of sputum. Several times, she woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible pain in her chest, and as time went on, the pain became more severe. Her doctor believed that the cause of her pain was due to a heart problem. The doctor ordered a complete heart workup along with diagnostic testing to find out what the problem was. The heart specialist found nothing. When the pain continued to escalate, mostly at night when laying down, her doctor sent her back to the heart specialist, who said, “Well I can run all of these tests again, but I am 100% sure that your heart is fine.” Regrettably, her doctor never thought to order a chest x-ray.
Because she had gone from July of 2017 to February of 2018 without a chest x-ray, by the time she went for the last time to an urgent care facility, it was too late. The chest x-ray done at the urgent care facility showed an enormous mass on her lung, and the Emergency Room physician told her to take the images to her doctor immediately the next morning, which she did. Her doctor looked at the images, called Lutheran Hospital, and after she traveled from her doctor’s office to the hospital, she had a bed reserved for her.
Oncologists were eager to treat her for a “cure.” She would have two radiation treatments a day, 5 days a week, and three chemotherapy treatments three days in row after that. The regimen would continue until she was “cured.” After two weeks of treatment, I went to see her as she lay on her sofa, exhausted. Her hair had started falling out, her taste buds had died, and her strength had ebbed away to the point that she could not drive, go to the bathroom by herself, and she sat in a recliner at night to sleep.
I sat down on the floor beside her, as she lay on the sofa, and after kissing her on the cheek, I looked up at her, and she said, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” I said, “I understand.” And she said, “I knew you would.” I think she would not have survived more treatments — I think the treatments would have killed her very slowly, she would have had no quality of life, and I knew she was excited to meet Jesus. The grace with which she handled her cancer diagnosis made an intrinsic and eternal impression on everyone who visited her, including me. That impression became a blessing to those of us who knew her and stood on the outside, looking in. What a blessing she was to all who talked to her in her last days.
Another blessing that came from my sister’s death was that my Seattle son-in-law finally went to his doctor, because of a cough he had been experiencing for six months, but refused to go to the doctor. Tests revealed that he had early stage lung cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor, and he is now cancer free.
My post contains two important messages:
Be proactive in your health care decisions. If you are not getting better, seek a second opinion.
Remember that even when we lose our most precious loved one, God brings blessings to those of us who are left, when we least expect it.