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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