It’s been a crazy few weeks.
My brother had a heart attack, and then my dad suddenly became extremely ill after a biopsy (which came back clear) … and a few weeks later was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastasized cancer.
With my dad, it came out of the blue. Nine weeks ago, we were working out together, as we had been doing, three times a week. He was out-lifting and more fit than many people half his age at the gym. He also always walked at least 10,000 steps a day and was taking care of his health since beating cancer a few years ago (you can read a blog post I wrote from my dad’s first cancer journey here: https://griefbites.com/2016/07/27/the-thief-grief-of-cancer/).
My brother’s heart attack also came as a shock. It happened on Mother’s Day and was a complete surprise.
Having two family members go through dire, life threatening illnesses within mere weeks of one another has been extremely stressful and heart wrenching.
As I was talking on the phone with a friend, telling her how I felt after she asked how I was doing, I put it into words. She said, “Kimmy, you need to blog about this. I’ve never heard such an accurate description.”
This is for my dad…my mom…our family…my two additional family members who are battling cancer…our friends…the grief and cancer communities.…everyone who has had cancer or has watched a loved one suffer through such a devastating illness.
May God grant all of us His mercy, compassion, healing, and His help as we walk through the incredibly hard journey of cancer.
😢🌷When A Loved One Is Battling Cancer🌷😢
Having a loved one go through sudden advanced aggressive cancer is the equivalent of your whole family being thrown into hell in a big bubble without warning.
The whole family is in an air conditioned bubble among the flames — except your loved one who is battling cancer — and you’re watching your loved one…who is outside the bubble…greatly suffer.
You can’t open the bubble to let them in…and you can’t exit the bubble to offer them relief or help.
You have water and you’re willing to give your loved one all the water in the world to refresh and help them – to put out the flames, to offer them a drink, to cool their suffering…but you can’t.
Every time you hear them cry out or wince in excruciating pain…you can’t help. You can’t take away the pain at all.
When they’re so weak they can barely walk or talk…you can’t strengthen them or be the breath their lungs so badly need.
When they are rapidly losing weight…you may be the best cook in the world, or offer to get them any food they want from any restaurant…ANY restaurant…but there’s nothing you can do. You can’t give them the gift of appetite or take away their nausea. Seeing your loved one lose weight – my dad lost 40 lbs last month – you feel like you’re in a nightmare. You learn that when they do feel like eating, you take full advantage of it – and pray they’ll be able to keep it down.
You love them so much that you’d willingly trade places with them…you even tell God you’re willing…but it’s not an option and you can’t take any of the burden off of them.
You see your other loved ones processing it…you can’t really help them either. Words of encouragement are empty…it feels so fluffy and artificial. Just like grief, there are no words in the human language to provide relief or comfort.
You want to say, “I love you,” and hug them a billion times a day…actually, you want to hold them tight and never let them go…but you can’t because it’ll just freak them out. They’ll wonder if they’re closer to death than they realize.
And the pain…the horrendous pain…you desperately want to make it better for them. Sometimes their pain is so great that gentle hugs are physically painful to them. It’s miserable not being able to alleviate their pain. You can’t make them more comfortable either…and due to the pain, no position – sitting or lying down – feels good. Temperature means nothing. They’re burning up one minute and another minute, they’re freezing. It’s so frustrating to them.
You want to cry…but you don’t dare because you need to keep your loved one’s spirits and hope up as high as possible. So much of the battle of beating cancer is in the mind and spirit. You’ll do whatever it takes to help them have the best odds, and most favorable mindset, of beating this dreadful illness.
You want to say stuff like, “it’s going to be okay” – but how do you tell someone it’s going to be okay – when you don’t even know if things will be okay? So you instead say, “We are going to do everything possible to beat this! We’re in this together!”
You want to 100% focus on your loved one battling cancer…but there will be times you won’t be able to since you still have work responsibilities, chores, etc – and you’ll feel so torn. You’ll strive for as much time with your loved one as possible – because you fully understand that any day could be “the day”…and as a result, you’ll cancel any and every unnecessary appointment, social event, anything unnecessary, everything. You realize an awful truth and it breaks your heart into a billion pieces: if God doesn’t grant you the miracle you’re seeking, you are on borrowed time…and the time is short.
You so badly want your loved one to stay on earth…you ignore reality and pray boldly in faith. You’ll be praying for huge miracles – because you want your loved one to stay here. You can’t imagine life without them…and you know you can’t “go there” and especially cannot “camp out there” in your thoughts because this can absolutely depress you. So you ask God for more faith, strength, and a miracle. You’ll even try to barter with God. You focus on prayer…you realize that intense prayer – and even fasting for your loved one (after talking to your doctor) – is the best way to help them. And you don’t just want to save them because you love them so much…you want to save them because you don’t want to see a bright light go dim…they’re doing so much for God on earth, so you continue to beg God for a miracle — multiple times each day. Even though things look bleak, you stand firmly in faith and claim any scripture you know or can find on healing.
Since you’re not crying in front of your loved one…God, other family members, the shower, and the car become your best friends. You cry out to God in your heart…your insides do the crying – and no one around you is aware of it. You turn on music and cry in the shower – where no one can hear. Sometimes, you’ll slump to the ground and pour your ever living heart out to God – especially on the frustrating days where you feel so powerless to help. You get it all out. The car is a great place to pull over and just cry on the hardest days, too. And you do this so you can reset and be your absolute best for your loved one.
You get upset that it’s your dad or family member…and will ask God, “why my dad?…why my loved one?” My dad is the nearest thing to a walking angel. Seriously…he is SO good to God, my mom, his grandkids and greats, my siblings, my husband, me – all of our family. I’ve never met anyone who has more integrity than him. Here’s how well-known of how great a person my dad is: At my dad’s birthday party, my sister (as a party game) had a quiz about my dad…one of the questions on the quiz was “Where was Gramps born?” Someone replied, “Don’t say in a manger!” My dad isn’t just a good man…he’s literally the godliest man I’ve ever known. He loves others and lives out his Christianity 24/7.
So many thoughts and emotions these past few weeks!
Whoever pegged the saying “Cancer Sucks” … they were absolutely right. It so very much does suck.
Make no mistake…there is always hope!!
Cancer – even though it sucks so bad – it does not and will not have the last word! It will refine you…absolutely allow it to refine you…you’ll also find out who your real friends and caring family members are…this refinement is a gift! It will cause you to completely reprioritize your life and relationships. You find out quickly what is truly important – and what is not.
It’s not always doom and gloom…you’re not always a crying, bumbling mess…because you’re also enjoying the heck out of your loved one. You’re doing everything in your power to bring them encouragement, hope, and joy.
Every. day. is. a. precious. gift. A gift not to be wasted.
You’ll have some of the deepest, richest, best conversations ever…and you’ll laugh with your loved one, too.
I’ve had some of the most meaningful conversations with my dad lately…and I’m writing down these precious words, too. I never want to forget these very meaningful talks — and the precious advice he’s giving me. He’s also sharing with me things to say to our loved ones at a future date. His focus isn’t on himself…his focus and his heart is on God, the love of his life (my mom), his treasured grandkids, my siblings, all of our family, and me. My dad’s entire life and world is God, my mom, and our family. Cancer hasn’t and will not change that.
I did mess up and cry around my dad – on Father’s Day – and my dad said something that blew me away. He said he feels his cancer is a privilege to walk through…that it’s a blessing in disguise – even though it doesn’t look like one right now – BECAUSE God will be glorified in this extremely tough situation. He said his cancer will draw our family closer together — and we have the opportunity to allow this trial to refine, teach, and remind us what life, family, forgiveness, and love are all truly about.
I know God is going to carry my dad, my mom, and us through this excruciatingly painful time…no matter the outcome…because God is good. So very, very good!
There are days I feel helpless. I HATE not being able to help my Dad. It’s my nature to help…love…encourage…prevent tragedy…console…save…and protect those I love deeply. I’ve wondered a hundred times how we got here…my dad had been to the ER a few times and was hospitalized twice as well…how did nobody catch this?🥲 Questions like these are futile. My dad told me to focus on the “here and now.” Although this all took us by surprise…this did not take God by surprise. And God is sovereign.
My dad said the battle isn’t mine…that I need to be still and know that God is God. He also said not to be upset with God…that God is good. My dad’s right: The battle isn’t mine. And God IS always good. He isn’t just good…He is 100% faithful…capable…loving…kind…and He is for my dad and our family.
Now that I’ve had a few cry-fests, I’m learning how to better shift my emotions, perspective, thoughts, and focus from an earthly perspective to an eternal perspective…to take (like my siblings have advised) “one hour/day at a time” – which isn’t always easy.
We always say, “I trust God”…and times like these reveal the contents of our hearts…they are also an exclusive opportunity to prove that we do indeed trust God.
So I need to remind my heart: We walk by faith not by sight…God can do more in a moment than I could ever hope to do in a lifetime…God’s Perfect Will – even when we don’t like or agree with it – is exactly what we all would want if we knew ALL the facts…God doesn’t need my help. At all…God is God – and I am not…sooo…I lovingly place my dad, his care, and his very life into the hands of the One who loves him most.
Anyone who has been through this gets it – our family, sadly, is not the only ones to go through this. Millions of people experience this every year. Two other family members are experiencing cancer as I write this. My heart goes out to all who have – and are – experiencing illness.
My focus is on God, my dad, family, and others who are grieving a loved one or battling cancer.
Instead of focusing on the cancer on the toughest days…what could or could not happen…what may or may not be…I will turn my focus – in faith – onto God.
Instead of crying in the car and shower…I will turn these times into deeper times of prayer and praise to the One who loves us most and best.
I will love and enjoy God…my parents…my spouse and kiddos…my entire family…to the very best of my ability.
Yes, I will absolutely still lift my dad and family up in prayer every single day…but my focus will not be on the storm…my focus will be on my God who controls the storm.
And I know I’ll get to know God at a much deeper, richer, and more treasured level through these trials. Like my dad said, this is a blessing in disguise…and God will create good from this situation — because God never wastes a hurt.
I’ll do what my dad has requested: turn my tears into prayers…my worries into praise…my fears into trust…and believe this trial holds a greater purpose.
I. will. not. quit. praying…and I will help my dad stay positive as his treatments become more intense and painful. He said this type of chemo (FOLFOX) made his first cancer treatments feel like a cake walk. I’ll continue to encourage, strengthen, and help him.
I pray anyone who has been affected by cancer will be comforted, encouraged, and healed. And I pray fervently that my dad – and your loved ones, too – will make it and will be healed.
Please pray my dad and all who are battling cancer will win their fight starting today…and may each and everyone of us experience a brand new facet of God as we walk – and continue to love, trust, and praise Him – through the storms we all face. 💗
No matter what storm you’re facing today, always remember you are loved and I am praying for you!
©2021 Kim Niles/Grief Bites. All rights reserved.
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5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5
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7. Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus
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