Cancer and Living Between Life and Death

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Those who suffer from cancer (along with their families and friends) share camaraderie.  There is an aspect of this experience, facing pain and death, which is much like being a war veteran.  You don’t understand it until you personally faced it.  As someone who knows people facing cancer, there is an aspect of cancer that has become apparent to myself.

Can someone live between life and death, in both the physical world and the spirit world at the same time?  I believe this happens with many terminal cancer sufferers.  The last words of Steve Jobs (who died of pancreas cancer) as he looked on his family were “Oh wow.  Oh wow.  Oh wow.”  I believe he was glimpsing the reality beyond life, as is often described by those who had the near-death experience.  But for Mr. Jobs there was no return.

Steve Jobs’s last words: ‘Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow’

As people slowly die, they may begin to walk between the worlds of the living and the afterlife.  This is beginning to happen with my own brother.  He has terminal kidney cancer.  At first he was so fearful; he worried constantly.  I would often talk with him to encourage and comfort him saying everything would work out.  He asked how did I know?  Well I didn’t; I just had hope.  Those with cancer need hope for as long as there is life there is hope.

Now when I talk to my brother, he rarely mentions his cancer.  We’ll debate politics or discuss what he is watching on television.  As he fades away physically, his attitude has improved.  I don’t understand how his previous fear has diminished the sicker he has become.

It has been a year since he has been diagnosed with this cancer.  It now seems he has come into acceptance with his fate.  It is a dreadful thing to know you will die, but then again we will all die.  Since my brother is a Catholic his faith comforts him.  He has discovered a grace, a spiritual dignity in the face of oblivion.  I believe he is now beginning his journey between both life and death, existing in both simultaneously.

I had not expected this.  I expected the closer death approached the more he would feel panic and dread, but that is not the situation.  It is the opposite.  He is doing fine.  It defies all logic.  My only explanation is that there is a special gift granted the dying if they accept it.  One may coexist between life and death, even if we don’t exactly understand it.

my brother

I don’t know how much more time my brother has.  It could be another month or another year.  But he is so thin; his arms are like sticks.  He mostly throws up his food as the tumor presses in on his stomach.  He is fading away and I am profoundly saddened.  But I am amazed by his courage.  I am learning something by his experience and how he handles it.  With the history of cancer in my family, the odds are I will get cancer myself one day.  I am learning a lesson I don’t want.

8 Responses to “Cancer and Living Between Life and Death”

  1. Chris Says:

    Having witnessed the ravages of cancer on several family members, I too am amazed by the courage they all showed in the face of death. Is it an inner atrength that helps us cope? or is it a faith in God or an afterlife? I guess we’ll never know until the day we face death ourselves. My thoughts are with you and your brother at this time.

  2. David Says:

    Thanks for the kind thoughts.

  3. Mark Says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to your brother. When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago I feel one of the reasons she survived this is due to continual prayers give to her by her loved ones. So I feel strongly about this. The unfortunate thing is that there is still too many people suffering from this disease. My best to your family.

  4. Emily Hill Says:

    Dear David,

    What a thoughtful, provocative post (we’re Facebook connected) and a sweet tribute to your brother.

    Living Behind The Veil, watching Life and knowing that it will continue after one goes on – and doing it with grace, as your brother seems to be doing – takes courage. Standing by a loved one whose life is in transition takes its own strength.

    Wishing you comfort, Emily Hill

  5. David Says:

    Thanks for the kind wishes. I believe a spiritual approach can only help someone with cancer. If spirituality doesn’t cure, it will at least make the journey less dreadful. I notice people don’t really talk about cancer much, because it is so scary. And the truth is cancer is scarier then anyone can imagine. But I am going to write about my brother’s journey; we need to talk about this and not hide it.

  6. David Says:

    Hi Emily,
    I saw my brother today (it is Sunday as I write this). I told him stories about what i did over the past weekend. He wants to talk about many things and not his illness. Of course the only thing I think of when I visit is his illness. But I follow his lead and talk about what he wants to chat about. Just being there to gossip helps.

  7. Cathy Says:

    Hi David,

    My son recently cared for his dad while his dad was dying of cancer and my son said that as his dad’s condition worsened, he could hear voices talking to his dad and his dad would answer them “No, no, no.” My son felt that the voices were telling him to let go. In his last couple of days, his dad started saying “Dad, dad?” So, if it’s any comfort, your not alone when you leave this planet.

  8. David Says:

    Thanks for your kind words. We are all in the same boat, for as long as any of us last. If anything, the mission statement of my blog is to suggest the soul is real.

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