Cancer. It has become a word
this society is accustomed to, one that seldom merits a second glance.
Feel the ratings on that great show going down? Write in
a little cancer. A good twist for the next great American
novel? Create a cancerous character.
Cancer is todayís cure-all. It is the disease that is
ultimately treatable; who needs a cure when you can undergo intense medical
procedures for the same effect? Seriously, who dies of cancer anymore?
My grandpa will. My grandmother may have the hands of a
hero, but my grandpa has cancer.
Two weeks before my wedding, my grandpa was diagnosed
with prostate cancer, aggressive and inoperable. By midsummer it had spread
into his lymph nodes.
Slaving away at a summer camp, I bought my black dress
and bided my time.
I was soon joined by my cabin mate, whoís
grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He didnít have to wait long.
We created the ďMy grandfather will die any day and Iím
just waiting for the phone call to tell me the time, date and placeĒ club. It
was how we coped.
Less than a week later she received her phone call. Iím
Sometimes I wonder what it is like to not worry anymore,
but Iíve never gotten the courage to ask her.
My grandfather is doing well, for his state. He refused
any invasive, intense treatments and is treating this disease himself with
herbs and vitamins.
So far, so good.
There is a man who has been like a grandfather to me, and
he has cancer too. He has housed my family on vacation and fed us with the
bounty of his garden.
He loves to sing. And heís dying. I last visited him
several weeks ago, a quick stop with my family because none of us had been
there in so long.
He was in a hospital bed in a room that was more of an
office, reduced to skin and bones; he was covered in a thin sheet and he was
We all pretended there was nothing wrong. Everyone spoke
to him in the same loud, cheerful voice Iíve heard my dad use at deathbeds in
nursing homes to men and women who looked more like corpses than people.
I thought I was doing fine until it was time for us to
go. On the outside of the front door was a hand-painted placard that read ďA
merry heart doeth good like a medicine.Ē
The craft had been there so long Iíd stopped looking at
it. The phrase was mentioned so often Iíd stopped hearing it.
But now, with fresh eyes and fresh ears the words were
like a slap in the face.
I wanted to take that little piece of wood and throw it
into the yard, then stomp on it and scream and cry until I felt better.
Maybe a merry heart does do good
like a medicine. Maybe it was one familyís way of reminding each other to look
for the best. Maybe they really did believe it.
Those words defined how this near-enough grandpa had
lived his life. The same described his family as he dies his death.
Sharon Shaw is a senior journalism major who serves as
editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.