This week my grandmother will probably be diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. This is one of the worse types of cancer for two reasons. First of all, it is attacking the very part of your body responsible for keeping the body healthy. So this cancer leaves the person extra debilitated as they not only have cancer, but lose the ability to fight off infections. Second, because the lymph nodes can’t be removed like bone or even lung can, there are no surgical procedures which can be performed. The patient can participate in chemotherapy or some of the newer drug therapies.
According to my parents, the average life span for a young, healthy person diagnosed with lymphoma in the early stages is approximately five years. For someone my grandmother’s age, with all of the other medical “baggage” she currently posesses, there is a life span of perhaps a year. Chemotherapy can destory a beast of a man, so imagine what it can do to a frail old lady.
I’m also worried about my grandmother for metaphysical reasons. She’s always been a little on the pessimistic side when it comes to her health. It has been proven anecdotally, if not scientifically, that one of the most important factors in the recession or curing of a person with cancer is a possitive outlook on life. Because the body and mind are so intertwined, depression depresses the body’s ability to heal itself. Optimism, conversely, increases the body’s defenses. Of course this is about a lot more than just being happy while having cancer, it’s about a total life outlook; it’s about finding ways to laugh even when you know it may be the last time you laugh. Prayer also tends to help and she lacks a little in that area too.
Of course, if I may be a little “selfish” with this whole issue, what bothers me more than all of this is my inability to let out my sadness. Of course, I’ve always been one to have delayed reactions to large emotive situations. When my family moved, it took me months to “realize” we had moved and have the reaction. It wasn’t until a year after 11 September 2001 that I first cried for the victims. My psychology just works that way and it really ticks me off at times like this. I want to let loose and be disturbed, but I can’t…not yet. Until then, I’ve got to have a general funk superimposed over my mood. It doesn’t mean I won’t laugh and enjoy life, which is a good thing – otherwise it would be unbearable not to be able to let it out. But, and here’s where being an engineer helps with descriptions, it’s like an AM radio signal: my emotions are the signal content and the sadness is the envelope. So it modulates my everyday emotions so that my highs aren’t quite as high and my lows are much lower.
If I can be “selfish” a little longer, what really gets me on edge about her condition is the uncertainty involved. I really want her to be at my wedding in July. Even worse, I wanted her to be able to interact with my children. It’s not “fair” that she got to be with my cousins’ kids because they decided to get pregnant when they were 19 and 20. But now we don’t know if she’ll be here next week, much less two years from now. Sure, all of life is uncertain; I could die walking to class tomorrow. However, it’s all about probabilities – she has a much higher probability of expiring before I do. I know with very high probabilities what will happen to me this week. The probabilities decrease the further out I go, but I still have things I am certain of – for example Spring Break will come on the 21st of March. And of course, death at the end of my life has probability 1, or 100% depending on how you look at it. But with her, with cancer in general, you never know. She could be alive for a year or she could defy all the statistics and live for thirty more years.
Of course, I also don’t want her to be alive with pain, no one wants that for their loved ones. I would prefer for her to “rest” than to be alive and be in pain every day. I can’t even stand when I’ve got a pain in my neck for a day, so for someone to have chronic, large scale pain is something I couldn’t even wish upon my enemies.
Well, life is always unpredictable, so if you believe in God/Allah/Yhwh, pray for her.