Monday, April 13, 2015

Too much cancer

In a day the doctors see somewhere around 150 patients a day.  Many of those go home with a treatment for a disease that can be cured, others go home with medicines for a chronic condition (like high blood pressure), but some go home after hearing that medically we can do nothing more for them because they have cancer that we can't treat with surgery or chemotherapy.  Too many go home hearing this.  In one day I saw . . .

A 30 yo female, the mother of a 4 yo, walks into my room thinking she is pregnant but also being concerned about some fluid draining she has been having.  I find that she is 3 months pregnant, but that she also has cervical cancer.  There is no easy answer here.  The cancer is nonresectable and any treatment you give to mom will hurt the unborn baby, but realistically not sure either will be alive in 6 months.

A 30 yo male comes in complaining of abdominal pain after eating.  I examine him and wasn't real impressed, thinking he likely had reflux and was planning on giving him some medicines and tell him to avoid spicy food.  Instead, I bring him to the ultrasound room and find a mass in his liver.  We don't have any treatment options here for liver cancer, we only can over supportive care and prayer.  He was with his pastor, so the prayer part was easy, but telling this young man that he would be dying in the next few years, wasn't easy.

A 40 yo male comes in complaining of fullness of his abdomen and pain.  On exam, he has an enlarged liver, that doesn't feel quite right.  Ultrasound reveals liver cancer again.  Repeat the scenario from above, but this time it is his wife with him.  She seems to understand more than he does, but saying you are going to die and we can't change that isn't easy.  He too knew the Lord, but it is still hard.

A 60 yo female comes in complaining of some swelling of her legs and pain of her lower abdomen.  An exam reveals advanced cervical cancer, way beyond surgery.  Maybe they can go to Lae and get radiation, but the beds are limited, and they were unsure they would  have the money to go.  Radiation in this case isn't going to cure, but only can help with symptoms.  More prayer.

A 50 yo female comes in as one of the last patients of the day.  3 years ago she had surgery for breast cancer, now for 3 months she has had some swelling of her chest wall.  The cancer is back, there is nothing more that can be removed surgically.  Her brother is with her, I explain the situation, and despite the hopelessness of it, offered chemotherapy to see if it might help her, might alleviate her swelling and pain.  They agreed and we went into the ER, where her sons were there to give their support.

I see cancer everyday and most everyday am telling someone I am sorry, we can't help this medically.  It helps to know we have something else to offer, someone else who is watching over us and caring for us and who died for us.  Yet the pain is still real, the grief is still real, the loss is still real.  Praying that maybe we can offer a little comfort, and Christ's love to those who are hurting and need to know that we care and that God cares about them.

2 Cor 5:14-15 "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."