The greed of cancer. Taking position and strength from places it should never have gone. Invading bodily fields it was never given a right to enter. Growing and stealing from other organs without any regard to their welfare.
Her belly had grown beyond the size of practically any that I had ever seen. It grew far beyond her pregnancy expectations. There was indeed a living child within. But it was getting squished and pushed more and more as the tumor grew. Eventually the child came, early, but healthy. However, the abdomen was still massive, as if many babies still rested inside.
She was a young woman, younger than me, pregnant with her fifth child. A doctor had seen the tumor in an ultrasound during the middle of pregnancy. Then, it was 7 inches in size. He stapled the report in her little booklet. But he never told her. After she delivered, she waited, wondering what was happening. There had been no change in the size of her belly even though the baby had come out. Six more weeks past. Her abdomen bulged beneath her ribs, hugely swollen, now many times it’s earlier size. The rest of her frame was like that of a refugee, frail and thin, making the protruding belly even more strangely alien. She began to have difficulty breathing, and came to our hospital for management. I was consulted since she was postpartum, at which time I found the ultrasound showing that not very long ago it was only a large, but reasonable sized mass from one of her ovaries. In only a short time, it had flourished, and now was overtaking the rest of her.
I made a plan, knowing that I was in over my head. If there were a specialist, I would have sent her to them. But there was none. The head general surgeon said that he agreed with the proposed surgery, and so we teamed up against the disease riddling the patients frail frame. The next day, too weak to move alone, she wrapped her arms around my neck as I helped to lift her off of the stretcher and onto the operating room table. Without the surgery, she would have been dead in a matter of days to weeks. With the surgery.. I couldn't know. Hope and fear were in my heart. Hope that though she obviously had an advanced cancer, that it would show itself to be a type that was treatable with chemotherapy. Fear, because decision making and surgical care for her were beyond my level of training.
Two hours later, we closed up the abdomen. The length of the incision was almost like a jacket's zipper, running the full length from just below the chest to the pubic bone. Approximately 30 pounds of tumor had been rolled out of her abdomen, into my arms, and then dumped into a large bucket. As much other residual disease as possible had been dissected, adding to the final total weight.
She went to the ward. I went home. She uneasily rested. I worried. I prayed.
Next morning, she smiled. Finally she was able to breathe. By the next day she was walking with the assistance of a walker. She continued to improve. A set-back would come, but she would struggle through it. Better days kept coming.
I wish I could say that we were out of the woods. But we aren’t done yet. She could still die from this disease that has taken hold of her. It is likely an aggressive type. She has a long road ahead. I have done all that I can do surgically. Now she needs chemotherapy. I’ve transferred her to the care of another doctor for the drugs that she needs to help fight the cancer. Now, as her doctor, and as one who practices under the supervision of the Great Physician, it is time to once again ask for the help of my Supervisor. He has guided us this far, and is still at work. But now my hands are done, I personally have nothing more that I can offer. It is time to kneel. Because He still has plenty that He can do. I pray that inside her – from every crevice that has a cancer cell attempting to gain ground to the deepest depths of her soul – He will work to restore all that is broken. Please pray with me. He loves to hear you pray, and He often moves His hands to heal in response to your requests. May He be glorified through this one frail, sweet woman’s life - for as long as He gives her to live. May she know the kindness of God, even in the midst of the trials and bitterness of cancer.