Saturday, March 08, 2008


Over a decade ago I was exchanging Christmas presents with a fellow missionary kid in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. He gave me a beautiful fountain pen. We lost contact until last fall when we started writing each other again. All of a sudden, I stopped hearing from him and got an email from his parents. He had been diagnosed with cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma of his left pelvis. After his diagnosis, he withdrew from college, where he was excelling academically, and moved with his parents to a small apartment in a different state where he had no friends. He has to go almost daily to a cancer center to give blood specimens and undergo others tests, if not to receive infusions of chemotherapy. He has to take medicines throughout the day to prevent treatment side effects, and he has to take his temperature four times a day to monitor for infection. Just below his right collar bone, going into his chest is an intravenous catheter that he has to flush with a heparin solution every night and cover with Press N' Seal for protection every time he bathes. He must conscientiously protect his fragile hip by using a cane to go short distances in his apartment and crutches when he goes out. The hair on his head is completely gone, and his eyebrows and eyelashes are nearly gone. He gets pale from anemia, and his finger nails bear stress-induced ridges chronicling the six cycles of heavy-duty chemotherapy he has received during four months. The doctors wanted to shrink his tumor but have recently informed him that the chemotherapy is not working, and his tumor has grown again. They are planning to surgically remove the residual cancer at a date still unknown.

As childhood friends who grew up in Bangladesh, we have an unusual bond. I ask myself daily, “What can I do?” I have not had the courage to call him or talk to him since I found out. What role do I play in this situation, and why has God burdened me to pray for something so beyond my control and understanding? My dear friend is learning valuable lessons about himself, God, and life, but the price for these lessons is unbearable for me to comprehend. Why, and why can I not understand? There are no easy answers.

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