A long time ago, when I was new to cancer world, the word HOPE had only one meaning and it mirrored what my little Webster’s dictionary also said: “trust that what is wanted will happen.”  Even the verb “want and expect” worked for me.  It took a few years and many highs and lows of cancer’s relentless attack for me to come to understand that Webster clearly hadn’t been a part of a cancer journey.

And so it was that just the other day in a conversation with a neighbor that I learned both her aging parents are in poor health.  Her mother is suffering terribly through the final stages of cancer.  To make matters worse they live in a country where health care is not care at all, so her Dad is the main care giver.  The grown children take turns helping out but even then, it’s far from a stable situation.   Her mom is losing her battle with cancer.

My neighbor said she was so hopeful when her mom was first diagnosed. She responded to treatment early-on and life was manageable. That has changed now and the disease has advanced at a rapid pace.  There won’t be any more treatment and palliative care has not reached this part of the world yet.

What’s worse is the hope that was once so obvious in the eyes of this daughter has faded.  She’s at a loss over how to feel.

So I shared with her what a wise clergy woman once told me about hope and cancer and how hope shifts as cancer moves to its end-stage.  We never really stop hoping, she told me, but it’s what we hope for that changes. In the beginning there’s the hope for a cure, or at least a remission.  If that doesn’t happen, then we hope for quality of life and some quantity too.  But in the end, we hope for comfort.  We hope for peace.  We hope for resting in peace.

Then I guess we can reach back to Webster’s definition and “trust that what is wanted will happen.”


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Al August 10, 2017 at 6:42 pm

An update from my friend with ovarian cancer…..I went to sit with her today as she received the 2nd of her 9 additional chemo treatments. They started early and I got there for the last 2 1/2 hours. She is doing well after her surgery but the chemo is taking a toll. Lots of weight lost, nail beds lost, hair lost but her fight still remains. As we know the body, mind and spirit can endure but the evidence of the battle shows…emotions at the surface, frail and fragile in body, minimal energy…but I see her reach down and draw upon that inner source that says “I won’t quit; I won’t give up so let’s get on with this stuff”. I continue to tell her that her story will be a wonderful story of HOPE for those in the fight plus those newly diagnosed. She is quite remarkable since I took her for her initial meetings with my oncologist. She was ready to give birth(about 7 months large) because of fluid and tumors…we laugh now but it was not funny that day! I remain hopeful because she is looking forward to finishing the chemo and then looking for opportunities to serve others whether it be cancer patients or otherwise. The human spirit is something to behold.

When I walked into the infusion room I saw the nurse who took care of me 16 years ago and through my fight with melanoma. She is still one of the angels who inhabit the chemo room. So good to see her and Thank her again for all she did for me.

This was a good day.


Al July 31, 2017 at 10:30 am

HOPE, as you have summed up very nicely, is a big part of the journey in the cancer world. 16 years ago, my definition of HOPE was very limited and fortunately for me, my short-sighted definition came true whereas others were not so blessed.

Your definition was always there….the journey step-by-step but we chose not to acknowledge the last very important steps. It was almost as if we acknowledged that it is very possible that I might not respond to the treatments that HOPE would be taken away.

My friend with ovarian cancer has responded very well to her chemo and just had surgery to remove female parts so she is essentially NED. Chemo will begin again to try to eliminate any lingering, undetectable cancer. But she also has acknowledged that all of the steps in the HOPE journey may eventually come to pass. She has witnessed the very brief journey of her husband in the cancerworld….the beginning of HOPE and the end of HOPE. He died from melanoma.

Thx Laurie.


Nan Holmes July 26, 2017 at 11:58 am

This is a good reminder that in all cases of terminal illness, we hope for comfort, peace, and acceptance. That is one reason it is so important to make sure all medical directives are in place long before they are needed.


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