The Many Faces of Cancer

As I sat at MD Anderson with my mom, waiting for scans and doctor appointments, I noticed many people surrounded me.

My mom is here for a 3-year melanoma follow-up, and we pray we get the “all clear” report today. MD Anderson is a hectic and bustling place. Everyone that works here has a smile always and they are so caring. Though they are all masked, their eyes express compassion. For the last thirty-six hours, I have been touched by many new people.

Yesterday morning I sat at breakfast and overheard a man and woman sitting at the next table; that caught my interest when I heard the man say, “How can I pray for (patient’s name) specifically?” The woman responded, ” For miraculous healing.”. I recognized that the patient was in a dire situation with cancer. Miraculous is a word infused with Divine intervention. I prayed for “miraculous healing” for my dad too. I understood this urgency. I stopped my breakfast and intentionally prayed for this unknown patient for miraculous healing.

My mom had full-body and brain scans scheduled for early afternoon. When we arrived, we saw an entire room of patients and family members waiting for scans. The receptionist notified us they were running 1-2 hours behind schedule. I looked around the room, patients were in recliners, and family members were on small couches. I saw some patients resting and sleeping, others were working on laptops, and I knew who were patients by their wristbands.

My mom was called back to set her IV line as I sat alone; I listened to conversations as they developed around me. Directly across from me, three families were waiting for scans. They slowly began initiating conversation to pass the time. Quickly I found out they all were being treated for colon cancer.

The stories I heard begin to unfold were incredible to me. The first lady was probably in her mid-forties. She spoke of her diagnosis in 2012, probably in her mid-thirties. She had four surgeries. Her first surgery took part of her colon, the second and third surgeries took 75% of her liver, and the fourth surgery was again in her colon. I believe she said she had over 70 tumors in her colon at diagnosis. Her first doctor in her hometown told her there was no hope, but MD Anderson said differently.

I heard her say that deciding to come to this cancer center allowed her to see her kids move through elementary school, celebrate birthdays and Christmases, drink coffee with friends, etc. She said it’s been a challenging walk, but she is still alive. The other doctors told her she would never see these events.

I heard next a conversation between the other two patients stating that both of their doctors told them that since it was stage four cancer, they should contact hospice and enjoy any days they had left here on earth. I was devastated; how can a doctor say that and not offer a referral to a cancer center to find any hope possible? I was so inspired to see both of them here at MD Anderson. They had been diagnosed one and three years ago, respectively. Although one of them was debilitated, just coming from a rough round of chemo, he still shared hope.

I soon started to see the love and comfort coming from these patients They were supporting each other in the most beautiful way They were sick and debilitated yet encouraging and sharing with each other I found that the patients had a comradery that supported one another True love in a world of cancer.

My mom arrived back from getting her IV line set as a man was being rolled into the waiting room for a chest scan He was dressed in a hospital gown and maybe was in his 70s I am not good at gauging other people’s age but he reminded me of my dad My dad was in his 70s when he passed away The man was bald and I saw a scar from brain surgery that was well healed His caregiver sat with him and I soon found out was his daughter She was agitated and very restless I saw the man wave to the receptionist for help.

The receptionist came over and asked how she could help “My daughter is disabled and not going to be able to stay with me We are about to lose communication with our family because we don’t have a phone charger We need to reschedule our appointment.” “Are you sure?, responded the receptionist, “I hate for you to have to come back.” The man said, “We are from Austin and my daughter is disabled and can’t sit here any longer.”

As I saw this interaction, God compelled me to move in The man had called his wife and said that they were coming home, it was too busy, and the daughter was about to implode.” I moved to the chair next to the daughter with my cell phone charger in hand “Here, you can use my charger I am going to be sitting here with my mom, I can sit with your father if you want to take a walk or get a cup of coffee If you are okay with it, I will stay here with your dad until they call him back.” I heard the man tell his wife that something was happening and that he would call her back The daughter then informed me that she had a traumatic brain injury and crowds make her incredibly nervous.

The daughter thanked me for the charger and told her dad that she felt comfortable having me be there with him while he waits Remember, there was a two-hour wait. He looked at me and asked if I was sure I would want to give up my time to be with him. “Absolutely, I am here waiting with my mom that also has a long wait.” His eyes reminded me of my dad He called his wife and said they would be getting the test. I looked at the daughter who now was calm and relaxed and peaceful.

I then proceeded to the receptionist and told her that I was giving the daughter a break and would be sitting with the man until he was called I also said a quick prayer for a blessing for this family I then asked the receptionist if there was any way this man could get his chest x-ray expedited and if so, I would be forever grateful.

I walked back to the man and told him they would be with him shortly He took my hand and held it. His daughter was content and squeezing my hand the man looked at me and said, “You are our saving grace today.” I responded, “Thank you, but I know you would have done the same for me.” The next thing I saw was a technician coming to take my new friend back for his scan. Thank you God and thank you, MD Anderson.

Later my mom made dinner plans to meet a couple that my mom and dad have known for many years. The man was also a patient here at MD Anderson. In 2011 he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and given a year to live. He has defied all odds and is still with us. He has been through clinical trials, and several chemotherapy protocols and his body has been greatly affected. He smiles and gives such gratitude to his doctors at MD Anderson. He spoke for about 20 minutes telling me about his journey with this cancer and continued to smile. What an inspiration!

Today we met with mom’s surgeon and oncologist to get the results of her scans and bloodwork. I think there were 10 sheets of paper they started explaining. Bottom line, mom is cancer free at this time and has graduated to only coming for yearly scans. She will continue to have skin exams every six months to monitor visually for new melanoma. Honestly, this is the best news God could have blessed us with today.

While here I have also learned the importance of a plant-based diet. Learn more here.

As I close out this blog I want to encourage anyone that doesn’t know about MD Anderson to Google it and read about all the beautiful work they do in ending cancer. If you know someone with cancer that should be referred to this national cancer center please be persistent in getting them here. I heard story after story from patients saying they feel so much love and hope here when other doctors offered them none.

Today, some are here finding out they are cancer free. Others are hearing their first diagnosis of cancer and the road ahead. Also, there are those continuing treatment after living this life for many years. I pray for all of them as well as all of you. My love and gratitude-LoLo

For more information click here.

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