I saw it again a couple of months ago when I was last out here.
I totally felt the guy's pain & could relate to what I saw on his face.
I still remember, although from a different perspective.
This time, I was heading out of M.D. Anderson's main clinic to catch the motel shuttle after my "good news" visit, and there he was.
A guy who stepped inside the door for his first-ever visit there.
Like all of us on our first visit, he was absolutely overwhelmed, by which I mean his already worn-to-a-nub circuits were totally overloaded when he stepped inside the door.
There's no describing the depth of feeling and emotion he felt that day.
I know, because I can't describe my own feelings & emotions from that day for me 2.5 years ago. I've tried in this space and many other times in never-published drafts.
Based on my interpretation of what I saw, he was not the patient. She was waiting outside on the bench until he made sure they were in the right place. Conserving her strength for whatever this terrible detour into the deep woods & weeds of their life's journey held.
It was all right there on his face.
"There must be some mistake...cancer--especially the kind that gets one sent to MDA--happens to OTHER families. Not ours..."
"Look at the size of this place! We'll NEVER find the right place"
"I'm the guy; I'm supposed to know how things work. Here, I got NOTHING..."
"Is she gonna die? What happens between now & then? Can that be delayed?"
"My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me??"
Those five thoughts can create a mighty anguished look on the face. I 'spect mine looked that way too in May, 2008. Lisa's too, since she was actually in this guy's shoes as the spouse of the patient. (Aside: it's been said before, but bears repeating: it's WAY easier to be the patient than the spouse of the patient.)
He stopped in front of one of the police guys who happened to be near the door, & just said the one phrase: "First time here..."
He was too stunned to cry or even to talk much at that point. He just looked like a 5-year-old boy who's gotten away from his folks at a huge outdoor event & has no clue what to do nor where to go.
The policeman gently showed him to the concierge station just behind them, where his "process" questions were expertly answered. Which helps a LOT!
But still, the huge, gaping questions remained. Some of which will likely not be answered this side of eternity.
And once again, I wanted to hug a perfect stranger & say "There's hope! 2.5 years ago, I walked in here overwhelmed just like you. Stage IV of a very nasty breed of cancer. And yet, here I am, with no signs of cancer any more."
I didn't do that, nor say that. He was too busy getting directions & learning how the valet parking worked & where the escalators are & where the elevators are & what time the cafeteria closes & where the hospital part is & where the bathrooms are & how to retrieve a daily schedule & how often they'll need her patient ID number & that the coffee shop is right over there & where the regular cafeteria is & which elevator to take to get to the specialists in her type of cancer...
Which, frankly, are more pressing @ the moment than the deep questions cancer calls forth.
So, I prayed for him as he walked by & stepped out & called my brother to celebrate with me on the phone.
Just another day in the life of the tens of thousands of MDA cancer patients & families.
One day, cancer will be no more. Sickness & death will have been utterly & decisive defeated. Perhaps even a cancer vaccine will be developed before that day. Who knows?
But until then, please join me in thanking God for the men & women who work @ MDA, giving their days & energies to eradicating this illness I hate so much. Men & women who enfold every first time patient into the MDA world lovingly & tenderly & with great grace.
And please join me in praying for those who have to walk in & get a patient bracelet, and for their loved ones. Once, for example, I saw a young father & his very young daughter leaving as they talked about Mommy up there in the hospital room..."We'll come back tomorrow, Honey; Mommy needs her rest right now"...That'll break down the bogus "I-never-cry-because-I'm-a-man-&-I'm-strong" thinking in a quick hurry! And it will also do wonders for your prayer life & your gratitude quotient...
God, teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) Help me be thankful & grace-filled every day that you grant me, for I am already living "outside the numbers" to quote my Dr. Use me, Lord, glorify Your holy Name in me & through me. As the old hymn says, Make me a blessing to someone today. And God, grant grace & endurance to the Drs. & Nurses & Techs & Food Service Workers & Janitors & Security Guards & Welcome-Desk volunteers as they together seek to address this insidious, horrible illness known as cancer. And please, God, grant that same enabling grace & endurance to those whose universe has been rocked by a phone call or a Dr. appt. during which the bad news was received.
Use such things as cancer to make us LONG for that oh-so-glorious day when You Yourself will wipe away every tear from our eyes as sickness and death will be no more. May we be found faithful to magnify Your Name and the glories of the Gospel between now & then.
In the Glorious Grip of His Grace,