I was leaving my doctor's office the other day when a cancer patient got on the elevator with me.
It wasn't hard to guess that she had cancer. She was being pushed in a wheelchair. She was wearing a knit hat to cover her head, bald from radiation, and I could see the port in her neck where they pump her full of chemo. But what struck me most was how defeated she looked.
This lady was slumped in her chair, but she didn't just look sick and tired. She had a look on her face of weariness, of someone who was ready to give up. I know nothing of this lady other than visual observations, but that look told me she'd had enough.
I don't know if she's been fighting for six months or six years, but that look made me want to fight for her and those like her.
I haven't always had the most positive attitude about those efforts. No matter how many ribbons people wear and charity races they run in, the list of people I know who are affected by or die from cancer just seems to grow. I'd pretty much gotten to the point to where I thought all the fundraising seemed pointless.
But then person after person has reminded me of how lucky I am that the tumor in my head is not cancer. And doctor visit after doctor visit I think, "It could be worse." But I didn't fully realize the truth of that until my elevator ride with this lady, until I was reminded of what cancer looks like in progress.
I'd just been told that I could hold off on surgery, and with no worsening symptoms or tumor growth, maybe indefinitely. The doctor actually said, "You're not dying of cancer, so quit worrying about that." Other than regular MRIs, things could go back to normal for me, for a while anyway.
The lady in the elevator obviously didn't have that choice. Normal got off her train many stops ago.
I don't know if they will ever cure cancer. Someone I know whose wife works in that sort of research thinks they will, and I'm glad we've got people with that kind of optimism working on it.
I also don't know what the best thing is for the average person to do. I lean more toward maybe giving someone a ride to the doctor or taking them a meal than just throwing money in a bucket and never knowing where it goes, Then again, the researchers need the money, too.
What I do know is this: We need to keep trying.
The fundraising and the volunteering may never fully succeed, but every step closer to relief or cure could mean one less lady in an elevator, headed down in more ways than one.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.