It is a question I dread. “Can you cure me?” With general knowledge of disease here so poor, and belief in all kinds of weird and wonderful cures here so rife, it is a common one.
I have built up something of a reputation for curing leg ulcers and preventing amputations. The recent cure of a diabetic man who came with his foot literally a ball of pus, who had been told at the hospital the only alternative was a below knee amputation, has created quite a stir. People are genuinely astonished that he is up and walking about again after 5 months of honey dressings.
They are so astonished I have had several cancer patients brought to me hoping I can work a miracle for them. The 60 year old man with advanced gastric cancer asked me the question. “Can you cure me? I am too weak to get up out of this wheelchair. I just want something to give me energy.”
It is a hard thing to take away someone´s hope. But at some point surely the truth has to be faced. This man cannot have many weeks left of his life. I hope we helped him focus on spending those days in the company of his loved ones, rather than travelling the length and breadth of the country, exhausting himself more in the vain search for a cure.
The 46 year old woman with terminal breast cancer´s brother asked me that question. “Can you cure her?” Her chest is covered in a huge fungating weeping cauliflower of a tumour. It has been growing and spreading round her back for a year now. The cancer hospital is waiting for some new drug to arrive from Switzerland as a final attempt to control it.
I showed them how to dress it to stop the smell and the bleeding. I gave her medication for her pain. But this is no diabetic ulcer. This is uncontrollable malignant cells running riot and causing havoc. Distressing as it is – and it truly is distressing – I cannot cure it.
But I can help them. I can work with them and make her more comfortable. I can give them someone to turn to for advice, someone to phone when she takes a turn for the worse. I can touch her and listen to her and point her to the Saviour who loves her and offers her hope.
The 32 year old woman with 3 children under 7 years old who is dying of cervical cancer asked me that question too. She went to the cancer hospital first, had all the tests and was told there was nothing that could be done. Then she went to the general hospital, without telling them she had already been to the cancer hospital, and went through all the tests again, only to be told again there was nothing that could be done. She was sent home to die with no medications. She was constantly vomiting and in pain.
“Can you cure me?” That question laden with hope. “I can stop you vomiting. I can take away your pain. I can help you sleep at night.” Was my reply. But I cannot give her more days with her children.
As we accompany these patients on their journey, as they accept their diagnosis and bravely try to make the most of the time they do have left, I hold on to the conviction that even when I cannot offer that cure they so desperately want, it is still worth doing what we can.
I don´t know why one person dies aged 32 and another aged 102. But I am convinced that this life is short for all of us in comparison with eternity. I hold on to the hope that God can bring beauty from ashes, that beyond what we can see and touch there is something more wonderful yet to come.