Cancer in the Family
by Jen Green
My father-in-law has been a hard worker his whole life. He became the “man of the family” when he was 15 and his mom left his abusive dad. He had to help care for and provide for his four brothers and sisters. He went to college, played ball, had a brief stint in the Marine Reserves, married my mother-in-law, had children and continued to work hard. He was in sales, so there were many days away from the family acreage. When he was home, there were fences to mend, animals to tend to, chores that had to be done. He worked his whole life this way, saving for the day when he and his wife could retire and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
And then, in September 2010, just a few short years from his retirement, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I’ll never forget that day. In retrospect, we all started noticing the warning signs months before–small personality changes, memory lapses, strange behavior. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, he collapsed, convulsed, and was rushed to the emergency room. That was a Friday.
By Sunday, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of cancerous brain tumor in humans.
My husband hung up the phone, looked at me and said, “It’s the worst case scenario. It’s brain cancer.” I sat in shock, not knowing what to say, not wanting to say the wrong thing, realizing this was a pivotal moment in our marriage. Images of my strong, robust father-in-law flashed in my mind. I could see him hoist the kids up onto a horse, his tractor, or just up to his chest for a hug. Words totally escaped me. So, I just took my husband’s hand, told him I was sorry, and cried.
Ever since then, cancer has been a part of our family. Sometimes, we forget about it. . . but only for a short time. Think of a computer that has a big processing job running in the background–so everything you’re trying to work on feels bogged down. That’s the only way I can think to explain what this experience has been like. We still enjoy our family time, all the holidays, the picnics, the impromtu get-togethers–but there’s always the big elephant in the room.
Every family’s experience with cancer is different, I’m sure. I’m going to write about our experience from the viewpoint of a believer, a wife, a mother, a daughter-in-law, and a sister-in-law. Every Wednesday, God willing, I’ll post another “Cancer in the Family” installment.
We all want to think “it can’t happen to me,” but it does. If our experience can do any good for another family, then to God be the glory.