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Coping with Chemo Candy

Candy“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Prov. 17:22. I’d never been in an oncology office. In fact, I’d never even known what the term oncology meant. To me it was like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)–something bad, but I couldn’t tell you what it was. That all changed a few days after my mom’s initial diagnosis. We stepped into a big beautiful brand new medical building with just one specialty–oncology.

Despite the gobs of natural light pouring through the windows in the lobby, the warm aesthetic feel of a newly constructed space, and the grand piano at the entrance playing soothing music to set the mood, the weight of a dark disease was instantly apparent. This was an appropriately serious place where everyone walked slower and with what seemed to be an invisible cinder block hung from each shoulder. I quickly understood that in addition to my role as medical guardian, I was also to be chief cheerleader, ensuring spirits stayed high. Or to borrow from Proverbs, I knew I would be medicating Mom with “a joyful heart.”

I found my first opportunity at the front desk. As we were checking off the procedural items with the receptionist, I noticed a glass bowl filled with hard candy. They had one of these bowls at each of their various reception areas, and I began to whisper to Mom that the candies were likely spiked with chemo. Looking back, there’s nothing particularly funny or amusing about such an assertion. In fact, it strikes me as being particularly ignorant, since at the time I didn’t have the faintest idea of how chemotherapy was even administered. Nonetheless, it did the trick. Mom giggled, and from then on it was known as chemo candy. When we sat in a waiting area, Mom didn’t ask me to bring her a Jolly Rancher, she requested chemo candy, and she always did it with a wry little smile.

It was important to be intentional about our laughing, because an oncology clinic has a knack for sucking the joy right out of a person. That first day was no different. Mom had her first CAT and CT scans and her first visit with the oncologist. He would deliver the news that Mom had INCURABLE stage IV metastatic cancer, and it wasn’t just in her brain, there was a large mass in her left lung, and the lymph nodes throughout her thoracic cavity were cancerous. The oncologist didn’t leave us without hope, but the prognosis was pretty bleak. After hearing that, we all needed a little chemo candy.

What is (was) your chemo candy? How have (did) you kept (keep) “a joyful heart?”

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