Have you ever felt so numb…

That your eyeballs feel cold?

Of course you have.  Everyone has.  Shock and pain and grief have fairly standard physical manifestations, numbness chief among them.  I should know, I’ve experienced it enough.  But every time is new.  And right now I’m numb enough to amputate my own arm without feeling it.

Today was supposed to be a routine doctor’s appointment, to discuss what comes next on this cancer merry-go-round.  You can read details below, but basically my forty-seven-year-old partner—my cop partner—is battling lung cancer.  It sprang up out of the blue.  Non-smoker, healthy.  No real risk factors, unless you count the fact that we worked unsuspectingly in a radon-saturated bunker for years.  But that’s a story for another day.


He finished the two-month, daily treatment, pre-surgery round of chemo and radiation a few weeks ago, so a new testing round commenced.  Blood work, CT scan, PET scan, the usual.  After the initial blood work and CT scan, a hiccup: the doctor called for an early appointment.  This morning.  Good news: the lung tumor has shrunk away from the pulmonary artery, and is now operable.  The bad news: the cancer has spread.  To spine, hips; potentially to the liver.  Surgery is off the table.  He (oncologist) does not know more at this point, still needs the rest of the test results, has no answers to give, and believes that this is the time to regroup.  Questions?  Good.  We’ll start another round of chemo.  Soon.

Wow.  So few words in so little time, yet he said so much.

I am aware, intensely, viscerally, that this is not about me.  It is not happening to me.  And I am so stinking grateful for that that I’m embarrassed to even think it.  Still, it is happening to someone that is deeply enmeshed in my life, someone I care about.  Someone I never expected to lose.  You learn early when dealing with cancer patients that it’s all about them, because it has to be—but I’ve momentarily lost my equilibrium.  It will return because it just…does, but before then I need to come up with some new things to say.  New ways to be encouraging, without being patronizing.  New ways to cheer him up, without pissing him off.   New ways to listen to all the things he will not say, but will expect me to hear.  Because I’ve been his translator for nearly half our lives.  This sucks.  So bad.


Filed under Writing

3 responses to “Have you ever felt so numb…

  1. I know how you feel about the cancer thing, because I have experienced it up close, personal, been there and done that. It isn’t any fun, but a lot of us survive, and I have twice. On a really bad visit to my doctor, I asked him when do I give up. When you hear the clods dropping down on the top of your casket, was his reply.

    The best of luck to you an your friend.

    • Hey Joe,
      Thanks for the encouraging words. This particular brand of the Big C is rather hydra-like, growing a new head every time we gain even the tiniest bit of ground. It’s relentless and exhausting and depressing beyond words, and it’s wearing him out. Even the strongest body has its breaking point. To all those facing or fighting this soul-sucking opponent, I send every positive vibe your way.

  2. EJ


    Like Joe, been hit with the Big C, twice and survived on the backside. It’s not fun. It’s not pretty. Hell, it down right sucks! However, your friend is much more lucky than you know…

    And the reason he’s lucky? He has *you* to help him through this! I had no one. Not then and still not to this day.

    If you want new ways to cheer him up? Don’t. Just be there, day in and day out. As shitty as that might feel, or seem, or even be, it’s what he needs. Be there when he cries – cry with him. Be there when he rants at the unfairness of it all – rant with him. Be there when he spits up blood into a bowl – hell, hold the bowl for him! Just be there. It’s by far the best thing you can do.

    Want *new* ways to be encouraging? Again, don’t. Be the same encouraging, non-patronizing very good friend you’ve been so far.

    What your friend/partner needs right now is the consistency of *you*! As you said, this type of cancer is a hydra. It’s ever evolving, ever changing, ever growing and the very, very best thing you can do is be a consistent, driving, loving, caring good friend to him.

    ‘Nuff said!

    But, I do wish you the best of luck in this. I know it’s hard to be the one on the outside, watching someone you care about, love, want the best for, go through one of the worst things this planet has to offer!

    I have been there. I have done that. Not only from my personal battle with cancer, but watching the man I loved die in my very own arms…

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