Last month, my older stepbrother was taken to the hospital with intractable back pain. He wasn't able to walk at all. A scan shows some unusual spots in his lungs. A biopsy reveals it's cancer. Further testing shows it has spread to his brain, his spine, and his adrenal glands. Stage Four Large Cell Carcinoma with Metastasis.
As a nurse, I know exactly what this means.
I have confided my professional opinion to some, but not to stepbrother's wife or daughters. They still have hope. They want to pull out all the stops for treatment. I can't blame them. It's human to want to fight. To want to at least try. Because when the dust settles, no one can ever ask, "What if...?"
Seven rounds of radiation with chemo treatments starting soon.
As a nurse, I know that while these things may buy some time, they will not buy a cure.
The picture gets bleaker and bleaker. Now, he's in the hospital with pneumonia, which is never a good thing when you have lung cancer. Everyone offers prayers. I gave up on prayer long ago when the words felt like sawdust in my mouth. Instead, I offer self. I have skills. I have knowledge. I can contribute in some way and leave faith to those who still have it. All the family members who are not in my field have hope and faith in unbundance. I don't begrudge them for it. I don't scoff or leer.
But as a nurse, I know that hope and faith are exercises in futility.
I see it everyday. Families, desperate for hope, cling to the words of the professionals. Looking for the faint glimmer of a silver lining. Anything they can use as a call to rally to fight. I see it in my family now. I see the set of their jaw and hear the determination in their words as they vow to "beat this".
As a nurse, I know the horrible truth.
As a sister, I can't bear to say it out loud.