I got news this week about a friend who is facing a diagnosis of bone cancer. We don’t know anything for certain yet except that it IS cancer and that it is either on his sacrum or in it. Depending upon the type of cancer that it is, they will let my friend know how best to treat it.

In the face of this news I began to pray because that it is the only thing I can think to do and because my friend asked me to pray. It is not nearly as instinctual for me as I’d like. I’d love to be the sort of “pray-er” who falls right into the well versed, proper stance for prayer but mostly it just follows Anne Lamott’s example of “help me, help me, help me” or “thank you, thank you, thank you.” Today I approach the throne with rather a surly attitude and all I can muster is “why?” and the occasional, “please!”

I’d like to say that it’s because of the injustice of it all and make some grand pronouncement about bad things happening to good people and the wisdom of God and not understanding God’s thinking on all of this but in the end it just boils down to me thinking about me, really. All I can think about is me, I confess. I feel like I’ve entered into a new phase of life in which I see people I love dearly passing into ill health, devastating crisis and fatality. Someone told me it’s because of my stage of life but this is a hard pill to swallow since I am only just knocking on the door to forty but I suppose she might be right.

It seems as though every year for the last 5 years there has been a loss of a friend or a friend’s family member or child and each time my response being mouth agape and lost for words. Because I’m a writer and because I’m a talker I look for the words when I see my friends who are suffering, who are facing treatment, chemo, radiation, nausea, death. I look for words and you know in the long run, words just fail…they just do. Once when I struggled to find something wise and comforting to say to a friend who was looking at terminal cancer I broke down and sobbed and she smiled the most peace-filled gracious and loving smile I have ever seen, she became the Comforter, the face of Christ and what a tremendous gift that was to me.

The same friend went through radiation several times. What is striking about this sort of treatment was that she could not touch or be touched for a few days afterward, she’d have to announce to people as she saw them with a stop sign palm out, “I’m neutropenic…” meaning that the radiation had destroyed so many white blood cells in the fight against the cancer that it also meant that our germs could hurt her, our touch could cause her more illness.

At a loss for words and a loss for touch…what am I left to offer?

My gracious smiling friend said to me once in the midst of her treatment that she was so glad for visitors because even though they could not touch and there was little, if anything they could say, she wanted to be seen, she wanted to be heard. This is what made her feel as though she was still a part of the human race. Her perception was that at first during her cancer people were everywhere, wanting to help, wanting to pray, wanting to speak but over time people drifted off somehow, got tired of the battle or got busy with their own lives. She suspected that the struggle was just too much. I suspect that the it was not the struggle but rather the loss..the loss of words, the loss of touch, the loss of control, the eventuality of the loss of a friend. Maybe we shut down to cauterize the pain of loss but forget that those still in the business of survival merely grieve for normalcy, for ordinary time, for the chance to have coffee and talk about American Idol.

I wish I knew more…I wish I could change things…I want to understand….I want to know God’s mind on this…I hope it turns out well…I hope my friend doesn’t die too soon…I hope he is not in pain…it all begins with “I.” Maybe “I” is all I have right now.

What comes to me is this; To see and be seen….to hear and be heard…maybe that is something. Maybe being present, being available, being eyes to see and ears to hear is enough. I hope it is a valuable. I hope it is a gift. I hope it is enough.


6 thoughts on “Enough…

  1. Ang — well said. My thought is “who now?!”

    Maybe we’re getting to “that age.” but I have some older friends who say, no, this typically doesn’t start until we’re in our 60s. So I do think our group of friends has been hit particularly hard with the whole cancer thing.

  2. I do feel for you on this one.

    I think, maybe, you have answered your own question when you say… “in the long run, words just fail… they just do”

    Sometimes, I think prayer doesn’t involve words. Sometimes I think if you just open your heart and show the crap you are feeling inside it will help. Some of the most noble emotions, expressed in words, begin to sound rather trite. Other times there is too much anguish for a person to put it into words. I don’t think it matters if you don’t say anything. God knows what you mean, often, even when you don’t. This is how I prayed when I lost my baby, when I was thinking about the rest of my family at the time my aunt’s funeral was about to start, when I wanted to write her a letter but didn’t know what to say or how to start.

    I pray like this all the time because I don’t really know what I want or what I’m for although I do know WHO I am and that I want the world to be a good place to live in. So, when I pray, I just open it all up and say “here it all is, do what you have to do, just give me the strength to cope with it if it’s going to be crap and if you have any pointers as to what I should actually be doing with my life (as in something constructive) that’d be nice too”. I confess to swearing and cursing at God often. On many occasions I have called him unmentionable things but then, if I he is to be my friend, I have to treat him with absolute honesty and that makes for a somewhat stormy relationship.

    When it comes to friendship, I think maybe the same applies. I belive you are spot on in thinking that, sometimes, if something bad happens to a person, they often end up having to be stronger than the people who are trying to help them.

    With that in mind, when people are in the shit and I’m trying to be supportive I tend to just be honest! I tell them I don’t know what to say or what to do but that I would like to help if I can. I ask if they want to see me and if they do, at the end of the visit I ask if they would like me to come back again. It’s usually enough and usually all they want is for you to be there, to hang out with them the way you always have. If you have something looming over you – like the possibility of an early death – I get the impression that you learn to love every day life. You want life to be as normal as possible, your relationships to be as normal as possible. You want to savour and touch each moment of every day because that is where the best bits lie.

    In short, I am sure an almost wordless “God, look. This.” is a good enough prayer and that being there for your friend, being normal, being you is enough.

    Take care you



  3. On a kind of PS note, I lost a few people at school and one in my 20s, not to cancer but to sudden things; riding accident, a motorbike accident and a plane crash (yeh, believe me I KNOW why Pope John Paul II kissed so much tarmac).

    These events made me extremely aware of my mortality. It also made me realise what a gift life is and that since I’d had a graphic demonstration that it could get taken away anny time, regardless of my age, I thought long and hard about the things most people don’t tackle until they’re about 70, dying – and in light of the fact I had no guarantee of a tomorrow, living – aged about 25.

    I think as a result I am a different person to the one I might have been. More positive, more appreciative of my life, more prepared to change things if I am not happy with them, more prepared to work at things until they are as good as they can possibly be.

    I guess sometimes the times we learn the most and grow as people the most are when life tips us over and then gives us a smart kick in the bollocks for good measure.

    Not now but later, when you look back on these years, you’ll find positive things came out of it, things you may not see now but things that make you all better, kinder and more sympathetic individuals as a result. There is a point. There is a plan… although you will probably never work out what it is…

    Er… I hope that makes sense…

    Hang in there.



  4. How is your friend now? I do hope you’re not one of the ones who have drifted off. When people have cancer, we need others just to call us, say hello, I’m thinking of you, etc.

    I know – there were many in the beginning who were there but where are they now? I dunno but it hurts.

    Peace, love and understanding.

    ~ RubyShooZ~

  5. Hey Ruby
    thankfully I’ve been able to keep connected and not drift off…DH just had lunch with him a couple of days ago. His treatment is going well.

    The hard thing for me is knowing where I can fit in, where I can serve, so to speak. They don’t require or want meals right now, they don’t require errands or babysitting…I just want to lay my hands as well as my prayers into the mix but I think it is so overwhelming for them that they just don’t even know where to begin.

    So, I listen, I email, I pray and I wait for a moment to bring a plate of brownies over when I can get my 4 children under the control of a sitter so that I can listen and pray in person…you know?

    thanks for your words and your insights…they are most welcome.

  6. Good for you Mrs. My cousin has been battling renal cell carcinoma for 5 years now. He just had his sixth major surgery this summer. His last tumor was the size of a grapefruit and it was sitting on his sacrum. The doctors first told him he would have to have his colon removed-He was only 18 at the time-just turned 19. Luckily our prayers were answered-He still has his colon. I lost a cousin on my Dad’s side of the family to multiple myeloma. You are doing the right thing-just be there-in person, thoughts, and prayers.

    You-your family-your friend and his family will be in my thoughts and prayers!

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