My husband Larry and I have known Steve for over thirty years and every time I have seen him, he has a big radiant smile on his face. His words match his smile as he offers cheer to everyone. Sadly, during the past two years cancer has invaded his life. Yet Steve continues to offer a smile and passes out blessings to all who come into his presence.
Today we talked on the phone and Steve’s voice was strong and energetic. Larry and I asked him, “How are you?” Steve responded: “Which version do you want? Do you want the truth, or do you want what I usually say to people?” I said, “We want the truth.” There was a long pause. (Later Steve told me that he was shocked when I said, “Tell us the truth.”)
So, Steve shared his truth: He said that he was in constant pain. “It is like a Sheepsfoot knife has run back and forth over my body. I am losing my toenails and fingernails. Because of a lack of saliva, I cannot eat and have lost 29 pounds in three weeks. I look like a scarecrow. My hands and chest have loose skin and look raw.” Then he asked, did we wanted him to continue? And we said, “Yes.” So, he continued with his list.
Later he said, “Remember when you said that you wanted the truth and I paused? I paused because I became so emotional because it is rare when anyone wants to hear the truth of what my life is like right now. People do not want to know what it is like when chemo takes my life away inch by inch (with the hope of winning the cancer battle.)”
Instead, Steve says, people want to hear, “I’m fine. I’m making it.”
As we continued our conversation, Steve shared all the gestures of caring he and his wife had received from friends and co-workers: “Just in the past two months, we have received over 425 cards, and nearly 50 homemade dinners, as well as cash and gift cards.”
All of these loving gestures of caring are so appreciated! In addition, let us remember as caregivers that one of the greatest gifts to one who is suffering is to invite the person to tell the truth.
Thanks, Steve Schaapman for sharing a part of your story.