Cancer Is: Explaining the Unexplainable

A caregiver explains the reality of going through cancer for those who are new to the disease or have never experienced it.

Many people ask what it was like to go through cancer. Cancer is complex. It is an often uncertain and all-encompassing disease. Having watched cancer ravage my sister it is far more personal to me. It is watching a young woman fall victim to a horrible disease.

It is back pain that seems phantom and won't go away. It is restlessness that you know something is wrong but are unable to do anything because she is her own person. It is spending all night in a hospital room waiting for results. It is having so much anger but being unable to speak. It is waiting countless hours for confirmation to what you already know but wanting to hear the words anyway.

It is testing and waiting followed by more testing and more waiting. It is hearing the words and standing in the hallway with your dad as you each fall apart. It is Googling life expectancy and throwing up when you see the answer. It is letting her cry and fall apart and being the one who doesn't.

It is being the one who is always beside her — the one next to her in the most impossible of moments. It is being that one constant when everything else in her world is changing. It is putting your own needs second knowing that you will have time when she might not. It is the pain of watching somebody you love endure so much and being unable to control the outcome. It is trying to navigate the ever-changing statues of the disease. It is watching chemotherapy after chemotherapy and the horrific complications that always seemed to follow.

It is holding onto hope when hope is difficult to find. It is sharing laughter and precious moments that I wouldn't trade for anything. It is bearing witness to the most beautiful acts of kindness I never expected. It is trying your best to get through the hardest days wishing that a new dawn will bring an easier one. It is finding joy in the small victories and trying your best to beat the odds.

It is more than one can describe to someone who hasn't done the same. But in a word, it is cancer.