Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Three Fates of Radiation

Yesterday was my last day of radiation and something so strange happened. I entered the waiting room and soon after three women came in and then remained, quietly watching TV. I can never be quiet, so after a moment I struck up a conversation. “What are you in for?” I asked. It’s no secret that we all have cancer; I just wanted to know which kinds they are afflicted from. “I have melanoma,” I overshared.

“Forget what I HAD. I’m almost done,” one woman beamed as she spoke. “I’m getting better!” But she sat in a wheelchair and she later explained that she could no longer walk because of the surgeries she’d undergone to remove the cancer. As she spoke I wanted to join in her joy, but I had a feeling that things weren’t quite as good as she conveyed. 

The next woman—with long blonde hair compared to everyone’s shorn heads—doesn’t have a very advanced breast cancer and is getting treatments to solidify her full remission.

And the last woman remained quiet—stoic.

Finally I asked, “What have you learned from this?”

“That God is good,” the woman in the wheelchair said.

“I’m a lawyer,” the woman with Elsa’s hair said. “I’ve just learned again that life sucks.”

It wasn’t long after that both the woman in the wheelchair and Elsa were called back for radiation.

It was after a while that the third woman spoke, but she was so terribly hard to understand. “You asked,” she lisped, “what I’ve learned. I haven’t really learned, but it’s been confirmed that life isn’t fair.”

“You got that right!”

She went on to explain that the cancer started in her tongue and she had to have some of it removed.

I blinked back tears. Because I suddenly knew why she’d been so scared to talk in front of the others. 

“They’re doing radiation on my neck now.” She spoke slowly. “The cancer...has spread.”

“I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. I thought I’d been on one helluva journey!”

“But you don’t look like there’s anything even wrong with you!”

A male tech came and called my name. At that point I struggled to stand and my back had been pulled so badly that I hunched over and tried to walk straight.

The woman gasped, so surprised to see how I walked. “Talking with you was the best part of my day,” I said. “I’m Elisa.”

“Sarah,” she said, placing her hand in her chest. 

And that’s how my last day went after having gone through various sets and weeks of intensive radiation.

I’ll never forget those people and what cancer taught them. I could honestly fill a book with what it’s teaching me.


  1. You are such a good writer. I read the posts I missed. Reading God's hands, I felt peace. Reading the above, I feel anxious. Cancer taught me gratitude. But is that because I survived it? I won't dwell on that question, I will just be grateful. I say prayers of gratitude now. I will say a prayer, I will pray for peace for you. Dee always says, "peace." I'm glad she could come and see you. At her age. She loves you so much.

    1. I realize more and more each day how important gratitude is. Thank you so much for reading these!
      Dee is so wonderful. I’m so amazed she’s in my life.

  2. Such a moving post that touched me again