If you were a Lost fan and saw every episode (as I did), you might recall an episode titled “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” (S2, E1).
It was the first episode of season 2 and the episode where Jack, a surgeon, meets his future wife. She is brought into the E.R. after a devastating car accident that leaves her paralyzed. Jack plans to operate but tells her that the possibility of regaining function is almost nonexistent. Jack’s father, a senior surgeon, witnesses this exchange and chastises his son for squelching his patient’s hope. Jack barks that her spine is crushed and that any hope he’d be giving her would be false hope. He performs the surgery to the best of his ability, but she is so damaged that he believes she is still paralyzed and that he was unable to fix her. When he goes back to apologize and tell her she will never have feeling below her waist, she begins wiggling her toes. Jack, who was previously only a man of science, realizes that science and faith merged to create a miracle.
My friend Nancy has known about my cancer since the beginning. She watched me barely make it through harsh chemos. She visited when I was giving myself daily injections of Neupogen as my white blood cell counts plummeted. She came to say goodbye on the eves of major surgeries. She brought dinners over to feed my children when I had I.V. bags full of fluid running into the Powerport in my chest and was vomiting so much that I could barely hold my head up.
She watched me spiral downward into a deep well of cancer. And then she watched me slowly claw my way up to the surface again.
And somewhere in the midst of this, she came to my door with both fear and hope in her eyes. She told me that her husband, Frank, had something show up on his CAT scan.
I knew that Frank’s hadn’t been feeling well. I knew that he didn’t look well. And when I last saw him, the yellow tint in his eyes did not go unnoticed.
She said that he was scheduled for surgery, but that God was good and that he would be fine.
As you may have guessed, Nancy is very religious and is outwardly so. She has no qualms about sharing her beliefs.
Nor does she have any trouble with telling others to have hope and faith. She has done this with me many times since my diagnosis. She has even gone so far as to tell me in a roundabout way that when I am not doing well, it is because I am not trusting in God and not being faithful enough.
It is always a difficult thing for me to hear, especially during the times when I have felt my worst. I’d be lying if I said the idea that I am responsible for the cancer for any reason is a tough pill to swallow.
But I listen and nod my head because I know Nancy is not saying these things to hurt my feelings. I know she says them because her faith is so strong that she can’t see these situations from any other angle.
Frank’s surgery revealed a small tumor. It was malignant. They also found a small amount of cancer in one lymph node. The good news was that the surgeon managed to get clean margins.
I was noticeably concerned, but Nancy reminded me that God is good and that the cancer was small and her husband would be fine.
Frank is a doctor and a man of the cloth. Frank is both a man of science and a man of faith. Usually.
When Frank started chemo, Nancy did her best to make healthy foods that Frank could tolerate. She took care of him and they prayed together regularly. They both had faith that everything would be fine.
Frank had a really difficult time with chemo and eventually decided that he’d had enough because it was making him so sick. They repeated his scans and everything looked good. So they both said “God is good” and made the decision to stop the chemo. Frank was so sick from the chemo that he and Nancy thought it wasn’t worth continuing, especially when his scans were good and he had God protecting him.
I was reeling over this decision. I insisted that Frank should continue to pray, but that he should also consider finishing the chemo. I repeated that he would be horribly sick during chemo, but that he would feel better when it ended. I said that it would be worth it in the end because it would give him the best shot at life. I pleaded with them then — and many times since.
But they insisted that they were going to let God take care of it. He didn’t need the harsh chemo. He just needed to be faithful.
So time passed. His scans were still good. I insisted that he go back and finish, though. But my friends told me that it wasn’t worth the side effects and that God was healing him.
And then he didn’t feel well. He was having trouble eating. He didn’t look good. He was losing weight.
A few weeks later, Nancy said Frank had collapsed and they were going to the hospital for dehydration. It was the second time in a month.
I suggested that she look into home I.V. hydration so he could avoid these hospital stays. And I also pleaded with her to reconsider the chemo decision. She said that it wasn’t open for discussion. Frank did not want to get sicker with chemo and she wasn’t going to push it. She still insisted that he would be fine.
He had to go back into the hospital last week. Again for dehydration. But this time the scan revealed something. But she didn’t tell me about it.
She called tonight during dinner. She asked about the times when I had home hydration because the hospital was giving her a hard time. They told her that he would need to enroll in hospice and sign a DNR before they would start home I.V. hydration and was this what I had to do?
I told her that it wasn’t at all. I signed a few forms at the Cancer Center and then a few more when the delivery truck and my nurse showed up at the door. But it wasn’t hospice related. And there was no DNR to sign.
The conversation haunted me. Then I learned that Frank was no longer going upstairs. Nancy was giving him sponge baths in the living room. And a hospital bed had just been delivered.
I was sick to my stomach because I had been through this with loved ones before and I knew what it meant.
Nancy said that the latest scan revealed that the cancer had metastasized to his stomach. That he has 3 months to live. 3 months.
They are scared. And rightfully so.
And my heart aches for them because I love them both and I don’t want this disease to take Nancy’s husband.
I do believe in God and I do believe in the power of prayer. But I also believe that modern medicine exists for a reason.
I wish they could have found a way to balance medicine and faith. I wish he had finished the chemo. And I’m sure they do, too.