Tuesday, April 28, 2009


What does cancer look like? I never really thought much about it until we ran into a good friend of mine and her husband in the store last week. Her husband hadn't seen Ray in awhile. They, of course, knew about his cancer. It had been awhile since the men had seen each other. Now, admittedly, Ray has lost some weight, but he's not emaciated or anything like that. He's got about the same amount of gray hair he's had for the last few years. I haven't noticed any new wrinkles. He looks like. . . well, he looks like Ray, the guy I've been married to for over 36 years. However, that night, my friend called me up and said her husband was shocked. He said that he felt Ray was trying to look like nothing was wrong, but he could see he was sick. He said something in his eyes and the way he carried himself gave it away. That threw me. I still can't see it. Am I blind to it? Is it because I don't want to see it? Is it because I see him every day and sleep with him every night? Not sure.

This essay was kind of born that night as I began seriously thinking about how cancer changes you and, in particular, this gentleman's wife. She is one of my dearest friends. She has had cancer for 21 years. She has been written up in many medical journals for her long fight against this insidious disease. She is not doing too well now and we may be coming into the home stretch. Does she look sick? No, not really. Oh, I know her very well and can tell when she's tired or the meds are doing her in. Lately, her breathing is affected since her lung cancer has returned. But if you don't know her and you look at her, all you would see is a sweet, middle-aged lady. Or would you? I'm so close to her, I'm not sure. Would someone else react to her as her husband did to my husband?

When I had cancer, did I look different? I had people tell me I looked pale. I didn't lose much weight. I was a little weak, but I looked like. . . well, like me. My sister-in-law had breast cancer. I wasn't with her during this time. I wanted to be, but couldn't. She sent pictures, though. She looked like. . . well, her. She lost her hair for a time. That gave it away. But did she shrink into nothingness, her beautiful blue eyes turning stone gray? No. Her smile still lit up her face and her voice was still her usual cheery self. The principal at my daughter's middle school has the same type of cancer my husband has. He had to tell me. I couldn't tell from looking at him. He is a big man. He's still a big man. His color is good. His eyes are bright. His smile is the same.

So. . . back to my original question. What does cancer look like? It looks like my husband, my dear friend, my sister-in-law, me a few years ago, the principal at my daughter's school. It may look like that person in line next to you at the grocery store. It may look like your child's teacher. It may look like you a few years from now. The bottom line is that it looks like all of us. Treat people kindly. You just never know. They may have cancer, too.


  1. My husband's first cousin just lost her battle to breast cancer this past week. She was 40 years old. She looked like Rochelle. Even right up to the end - she had lost weight - but she was still the same - and was loved and adored by everyone that knew her. She never lost her sparkle and positive attitude - God just shone in her life. That's what Cancer looks like.

  2. beautiful article.. thinking of you for fri

  3. Carla,
    You have such a refreshing honesty and simplicity about you that just shines through each of these posts.

    These are precious as they help those who are dealing with issues such as these to relate and feel hope and connected. However, your words also help those of us who have loved ones dealing with it to understand and know what they need. Thank you for taking the time to post and share your feelings about this difficult time in your life.

    May God bless and keep you.