Clayton Adams

Albert Camus once wrote, “There is no love of life without despair of life.” 

In her book, The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last Cell (2019), Dr., and author Azra Raza wrote, “Clarity comes from role-playing. By learning from the experience of others, we can interpret our own lives better, choose a different death, record our wishes in advance.”

Cancer is unrelenting. Rarely, does cancer leave the body, it simply hides from MRIs, CAT scans, blood, and other tests. Then suddenly, with a vicious vengeance cancer reappears seeking whom it may devour. 

After a three-year battle with cancer, enduring chemo treatments, radiation and changing his diet, exercising and being a very positive person, my friend was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. He lost a great amount of weight, nauseated and vomiting every day, food (even the smell of food) made him sick and he barely could lift his head off his pillow towards the end. Was he alive? Yes, he was alive but he was not living. 

Witnessing my friends’ determination to fight the cancer, encouraged me. Then the fateful day arrived. I walked into his hospital room, and while standing at the foot of his bed, I learned an important lesson.  

With many who fight cancer, determination to beat cancer matures. Determination, like a river cutting a new path, finds a new channel, with a higher purpose. My friend was ready to leave all he had on the battlefield of cancer. Was this a sudden change in his attitude? No, he had already weighed all his options and considered his future. He had not given up; he was ready to move on and he wanted to share this decision with his family and friends.

When someone starts their cancer battle, strong and determined, do not be dismayed when the person wakes up one day and conveys a change from fighting to the acceptance of the finality of life.

Will this change be easy to accept? No, it will not be easy, in fact, it will be the second hardest thing any family will experience. When a family member or friend expresses his or her desire to be delivered of the fight, the pain, the daily sickness, nausea, fatigue, and daily indignities, even the financial costs, one must align with the patient’s decision. As you were in the beginning, be kind, empathetic, encouraging, supportive and above all be gracious with your words at the end of the battle.

This cancer lesson helped me. I have greater compassion. I am less judgmental and realize that a person of great faith can and often will verbally express his or her desire to leave this life for the next life. 

Cancer and other battles of life are unrelenting, unmerciful, uncompassionate – the very opposite of what waits for them in God’s presence. 

A painful lesson. “Pain will not kill you but it will make you wish you were dead.” This was a comment from an emergency department doctor to me as we worked on a patient one evening in the old Crittenden Regional Hospital emergency room. 

While serving as a pastor I experienced an incident that greatly affected me. I was visiting a man from the church who just had bypass surgery in Methodist Central Hospital in Memphis. I stood next to his bed, only hours from his surgery while he clutched a small pillow tightly against his chest as most heart patients do to help ease the pain. 

He looked at me with tears in his eyes and softly, but with emphasis said, “Kill me!” “Kill me!” He was in so much pain he wanted me to end his life. I was wholly unprepared for this request and stood frozen, unable to move and had no words to reply to his demand. At that time, I did not understand his pain. Now, after more than ten years of serving in the medical field, I do not understand completely, but I do understand more fully. That incident helped to shape and mold me as a person and as a Christian in the ministry of medicine. 

Each time I meet someone in pain I remember the words of the ER doctor, my compassion comes to life, I no longer back away from people in pain, instead, I embrace them.  

Often there is nothing I can personally do to reduce the pain in someone’s life. “Pain will not kill you but it will make you wish you were dead” is a true statement but consider what the Bible says,  

“But, as it is written, what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Proverbs 111:10).  

 

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