This post is part of Julie's Hump Day Hmmm. It's a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short. To read some other great posts on the topic of "fixing" visit her site.
My father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August of 2003. Doctors told him he was lucky. They found it early, and with agressive treatment he had a chance of living another five to fifteen years. None of us ever even asked if not getting treatment was an option; it was just assumed that my dad would do whatever it took to live a few more years. In retrospect, I wonder if he made the right choice.
You see, even with several rounds of chemo and two stem cell transplants, my father only lived another three years. Some of that time was good, and he did get to meet three of his grandchildren, even being around Calvin long enough that Calvin still remembers his PopPop. But most of those years were not full of quality life. He and my mom spent several months at a time in Arkansas, far away from family and friends, so that my dad could get the most advanced treatment. When he was finally home and done with his transplants, my dad had about eight months of feeling pretty good until the cancer started to return. My workaholic doctor dad, who had always been fit and full of energy, spent most of his time on the couch, making the occasional outing to make memories with his family. In September of 2006, he passed into eternity.
Should my dad have gotten treatment? I don't know. I certainly don't regret the time I had with him or the memories he made with Calvin. I don't regret our last summer at the beach, when he spent time with baby Hobbes and watched Calvin and my niece play in the sand and waves. But I know that most of that time, my dad felt awful, and I believe that he only went through with later treatments for our sake. He was ready to go.
My husband and I have talked about this a lot lately, and I keep coming back with questions. Why do terminally ill people receive treatment? What would I do if I were diagnosed with a terminal illness? I am thankful for medicine and for the time it bought my dad. I also think that there is no question of receiving treatment if there is hope for a cure, or of using medicine if it can alleviate some pain and suffering in order to provide a better quality of life. But I do think that aggressive treatment in order to fight off death sometimes goes too far. Sometimes, people are ready to die. Sometimes people do not want to live in misery for just a few more months. Sometimes people are like Mrs. Dubose in To Kill a Mockinbird and just want to die in their full minds and at peace, not dependent on outside chemicals to regulate their bodies.
This is a tricky topic, and I think it extends far beyond terminal illnesses. There are so many medical treatments and medications that people use these days to lengthen life, hold off aging, "fix" a problem that may not be a problem (or at least not one that is meant to be fixed).
As I Christian, I can't help but see this pursuit of health and long life as proof that we live in a world that is not as it should be. Disease and brokenness are not part of the created order; they are a corruption of it. Death is not natural, it is the enemy. We are not meant to be comfortable with these things, but I also don't think we are ultimately meant to cure all of them. We are meant to live in this broken world and allow the brokenness to awake our longing for something more. We are meant to pray for God's kingdom to come into our brokenness and death and to bring healing and life. And ultimately, we are to look to Jesus, who was victorious over disease and death. His rule will usher in a new creation, where there is "no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Amen, Come Lord Jesus.