Scott’s Fight with Esophageal Cancer
“Missie is my sister (older than me by two years), and Scott is her husband, and my brother-in-law. They got together almost 17 years ago, when I was still a teenager. We all met working at the same electronics retail store in Colorado, and for them it was a fast and undeniable, soul mates kind of love. Scott is my brother through marriage, but my brother nevertheless in every sense of the word. Scott has vetted all my boyfriends, diagnosed all my car problems, and answered every phone call from me asking for driving directions from back in the days before GPS and smart phones.” Meghan, the sister in law of Scott who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, has shared her story with us on the battles and obstacles that his cancer has thrown at him and their family.
When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, there isn’t one specific feeling you are supposed to have. A few questions that may run through your head are: “how do you cope?” or “how can I fix this?” Meghan told us what went through her mind when she received the heart-wrenching news,” Disbelief, dread, disorientation. All I could do was read everything available about what the doctors were saying about his condition. Educating myself on the condition and treatment options was the only way I felt I had any control over anything. It felt like having the rug pulled out from under me, and it came with crushing uncertainty about everything. Despair alternated with hope and back again.”
In addition to the feelings of disbelief, cancer brings plenty of hardships to accompany it. Meghan explained to us some of the battles she was faced with in addition to Scott and Missie’s fight with cancer,” Financial concerns are frustrating because they’re immediate and insurmountable, but are so not the things you want to be spending your time and energy on. It’s one thing to be anxious and kept awake by concern about the well-being of your loved one, but it’s a really terrible feeling to have your thoughts and concerns spread to how you’re going to pay for treatments or hospital trips and the like. Also, I worried a lot about his wife, my sister, who was his primary caretaker and just completely overwhelmed with everything going on. It was hard to know what to do to support her.” If you’re like Meghan and are struggling to find a way to help support a caregiver, you can check out our caregiver support page.
Support is the number one way to get through a difficult time. Finding support can provide backup, so when you’re feeling like you’re going to fall apart, there is someone there to hold you up. Meghan shared her support with us, “Feeling people’s love for our family and for my brother-in-law helped. It’s important to feel a sense of community and care around you when everything turns upside down. And even more importantly, people’s messages and charity really overwhelmed my brother-in-law with love and gratitude, which is huge. It comforts his loved ones to know that his spirit was lifted by that, and that he was made aware of just how much love and support was out there for him in his time of greatest need. Most of that was made available through GiveForward’s stories pages and through the actual donations. Also, GiveForward gave me a way to know I was doing something proactive and helpful when I felt like I didn’t know what to do, and I think it served the same function for others. I am thankful it was quick and easy to set up and was drawn to GiveForward specifically due to its supportive and caring vibe, down to its name.”
Meghan also provided advice for others who are dealing with a similar situation, “Go outside, find somewhere to lie on the ground or on a bench under a tree, and just breathe and watch the leaves moving in the breeze against the backdrop of the blue sky. So much comfort and calm can be found in connecting with the natural rhythms of the world around us. For inspiration, I read Kahlil Gibran, Rumi, and Mary Oliver. They focus on the natural world to draw comfort and joy, and they also speak of life’s natural balance and help us to realize that in this life, the things we love carry also the pain of attachment and loss, while the things we hate can turn out to be the most helpful and transformative aspects of our lives. Light in dark and dark in light. From Gibran’s “The Prophet”: ‘For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.’”
In addition to her advice, Meghan shared her own personal tip for dealing with family who has cancer, as well as a little story as she went through this difficult time. “I’d say for any family going though this, try to keep laughter alive. It’s just as important as it is to let yourself cry together and talk about what these moments are like for you. I’ll treasure this recent moment of levity with my brother-in-law: I was helping my sister take care of him early one morning. He was too weak to drink on his own, so we would fill up a little cup with the grape juice he wanted and hold up a straw to his mouth. It had been a long, mostly sleepless night attending to him, and he was running low on grape juice so I refilled it and gave him a sip. He kind of recoiled and said it tasted bitter, and I offered water to him instead, thinking, poor Scott, his taste buds must be messed up from the illness or medication so that even sweet grape juice has a funny taste to him. A few hours later, I was refilling the juice cup again and I realized that in my sleep-deprived stupor I had actually added cranberry juice before instead of grape juice! I felt so terrible! When he woke up, I told him, hey, Scott, remember before you said the grape juice tasted bitter? He nodded. I said, well, it’s because I accidentally filled your cup with cranberry juice instead of grape. And he smiled and shook his head in the same way he would have before he was sick, when he would have rolled his eyes, shook his head, and good-naturedly called me an idiot. That small moment of normalcy and humor is so important to me to have as a memory, and I like to think that moments like that made him feel a little normal and good too, however briefly.”
Cancer can bring out the worst, yet it also can show you how amazing and supportive your community and network is. Meghan told us about the best thing someone did for her during this tough time,” I think just telling me and my family that they are there if we need anything. Sometimes there’s not much to be said or done in moments like these, but just knowing that people are there ready to help and caring for you is a big help and comfort.”
The GiveForward page that Meghan created for Scott raised over $23K dollars, as well as an abundant amount of thoughtful notes from the friends and family of Scott and Missy. An update from Meghan on Scott’s page states, “Scott Lawrence West passed away… Scott would want you to know that during his last weeks, he read your stories and saw your generosity. He cried so many times completely overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude for all your love and support. Thank you for that gift to him. He died surrounded by love…” Meghan’s inspiring story with Scott and Missie is one of tragedy, but also of extreme love. Meghan and her community represent the amazing support that surrounds someone who is loved so dearly, and though Scott passed, he lives on through his loved ones.