I hate cancer. I’d be very pleased if cancer were to be utterly eradicated. Sadly, cancer doesn’t give a shit about how I feel about it.
My wife and I just got home this evening. We’ve been out of town for a few days to see the surgeon who’s going to remove my wife’s cancer. She had another blood test, an X-ray, and set up an appointment to get a bone scan (nuclear medicine). We thought about things for a while and then told the surgeon which surgical option we’ve decided to go with.
That was all hard stuff but we agreed that it felt positive to get things moving toward treatment and recovery. The surgeon mentioned that some people put off the surgery, as if trying to avoid facing reality, I guess, and that she was glad that we are trying to get things done.
Just before we started for home, we met with my wife’s younger brother and his eighty-one-year-old friend who was anxious to see us before we left. Her brother has generally been respectful and kind toward us and the elderly man has, apparently, been kind to her brother, so we decided to indulge the old fellow. Besides, my wife had spoken to him on the phone recently, following her diagnosis, and found him to be somewhat comforting.
We met them in a Wendy’s restaurant on Victoria Street in Prince George. By the time they arrived, we’d already consumed most of the salads we’d ordered.
The old guy started out by praying for my wife and declared that she was healed, “in the name of Jesus!” I bit my lip and said nothing about it. He turned to me. “Can you give me an amen?” he said. I said, “No, I can’t do that.”
“He doesn’t believe,” explained my wife.
He immediately assumed that my unbelief had to do with an experience of hypocrisy with some kind of church leadership and he proceeded to relate a personal experience that he thought might be relevant. I let him go on for a little bit but then cut him off and told him that it really isn’t like that for me and that my unbelief is due to “a lack of good reasons to think that it is actually true”. I didn’t consider this an appropriate time and place for an extended debate with someone whom I suspected was most likely not especially interested in things like reason and evidence, so I said, “Let’s not dwell on that right now, though. What’s most important right now is her well-being.”
He remarked that I still love my wife, to which I responded affirmatively. He reminded us that his is eighty-one years old and pointed out that he’s seen a lot during his life. He then launched into a half-baked (that’s a very generous description) attack on standard medical responses to a cancer diagnoses, claimed that he knows more about cancer than any doctor, and summed it up by stating that it was his intention to try to convince my wife to forego surgery and any other treatment, such as chemotherapy, that might be recommended by her doctors, in favour of his bullshit “natural” remedies and faith in Jesus.
Well, that was as much as I could take. I’d been holding back my criticisms of the old guy’s bullshit because I knew my wife was in an emotionally vulnerable state and it would probably only make her feel worse if I were to make a scene and because I didn’t want to offend her brother, who is a good guy. I also knew that she had already decided to follow her doctor’s advice. It’s not that I didn’t trust her ability to make a reasonable decision. It’s just that I couldn’t take it any more. He was giving advice that would kill her if she followed it and he was probably going to give the same horrible advice to other people.
I said, “That’s enough.” I stood up. I told him that what he was saying was “garbage” and that we were done with it.
He said, “Well, God bless you folks.” I tapped the ridiculous anti-science booklet he’d been trying to share with us and told him quite sternly that it is garbage. I left and waited, in an agitated state, for my wife to join me. She did.
I think I displayed remarkable restraint. I employed no words that might be described as vulgar. I made no personal attack — physical or verbal. I only attacked the ideas that he was pushing. I didn’t try to argue any of the points with him; he was obviously already a confirmed crackpot so it would most likely have been a waste of my time and we wanted to get on the highway toward home before it got much later. Travelling on winter roads is generally safer in daylight. We left.
My wife didn’t criticize me for what I said. She merely reaffirmed to me that she was committed to taking her doctor’s advice over that of the old man. I nodded. She told me to calm myself before driving. Good advice. I did my best.
She expressed concern that her brother might be feeling bad about what happened. I texted him at our next fuel stop and apologized for my outburst. I think that I could have responded much more calmly at the restaurant, not for the sake of the crazy old man but for the sake of my wife and her brother, while still expressing disapproval and rejection of the old guy’s crazy beliefs. Her brother responded that no apology was necessary. I thanked him. He sent back a smiley face.
On our way down to Prince George to see the surgeon, we dropped Meeka off at Dog Digs, the kennel at which she’d been fostered before we adopted her, and picked her up there on our way home. She was really happy to see us and slept soundly on our bedroom floor shortly after we got back. See the way she’s laying there? That’s how I’d like to feel tonight.