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.
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.
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.