Monday, December 02, 2019

Suffering, Perseverance, Character, Hope ...

In the comics, radiation creates superheroes.

Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and becomes Spider-Man. Gamma Rays force Bruce Banner to become the Hulk. The Fantastic Four were bombarded by cosmic radiation upon re-entry during a space mission. Weirdly exposed to radiation in very different ways, they all became superheroes as a result.

In real life, radiation causes burns and scar tissue.

Maybe I'm just less aware of it, but it certainly seems like fewer people get radiation for cancer treatment nowadays. It seems the focus is now on straight chemotherapy. At least compared to 20+ years ago when my dad did to treat a small tumor in his tonsil. The doctors removed the tumor, the tonsil and a significant amount of surrounding tissue on his neck. The doctors then gave him chemotherapy and radiation to treat the site, to make sure the bad cells would all be killed off. I don't know if back then they already knew it would cause scar tissue bad enough to eventually threaten his ability to breathe and straight up take away his ability to swallow food. I don't know if back then they already knew there would be a possibility of him needing a tracheotomy just to breathe, and that he would have to be fed a liquid diet straight into his stomach via a feeding peg. Everyone was just doing what they could to help get the best outcome, and my dad had to okay with it--or not okay when he was not comfortable with the options -- every step along the way.

Several years after surgery, the scar tissue grew around his esophagus, he lost a tremendous amount of weight. It then began to compromise his breathing. Two days before Christmas Eve he needed a permanent trach tube. It was put in, and our lives significantly changed. Mom became his full-time caregiver, and my sisters took turns. And when his health began to deteriorate to such a point that he became a fall risk, we moved in, so I could also help back up mom 24 hours a day. Everything changed. We persevered.

Suffering is supposed to show you what you're made of. It was astonishing the grace with which my dad (and my mother) handled his immense suffering. He prayed a lot, we all prayed a lot, for God to carry him and all of us through this experience. His continued gentleness and great love for people astonished me still, even as he grew bent over, slept less and less at night, and more and more during the daytime. His character was awashed with Love.

The Hope is that even through suffering, God sees and knows -- and although this is more Catholic than Protestant in mindset --  He can somehow accept our small offering of suffering for the souls of others, as a small, pale imitation of what Jesus did for all of us, to rescue and redeem us from permanent separation from God.

I miss my Dad. He was my personal superhero.