Cancer, Treatment, and the Temple

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

photo courtesy of Linda Hoffman KimballI spend Friday mornings in the temple whispering in white, calling down the powers of Heaven to cleanse and prepare women for the bounty God has eternally in store for them. I am awed by the initiatory. Although I bristle with some phrases that seem like artifacts of another century, as a whole I am astounded by the intimacy, love, preparation, protection, and embrace of that aspect of the temple. The thoroughness of that kind of cleansing is unlike any that mortal life can offer.

Its closest competitor is something my husband endured in 2007. Almost exactly three years ago, Chris was diagnosed with a rare abdominal cancer (Pseudomyxoma Peritonei or PMP). Doctors called my husband's case "ultimate" in complexity and severity. The cancer began from a burst appendiceal tumor, possibly as many as twelve years before doctors detected it while scanning for diverticulitis (which he didn't have.) The only hope for cure was a surgery as barbaric as it was (literally) cutting edge. The surgery involved slicing him down the middle, removing every trace of cancer from his gut, removing all damaged, strangled, or redundant organs, then bathing his raw interior with heated poison (chemo) to kill any outlier cancer cells too small to detect. The surgery and heated chemo treatment took seventeen hours total. The surgeon devoted one of those hours just to Chris's stomach, holding it in his hands, peeling and prying the cancer off its surfaces.

Chris continues to be cancer free. In my reveries at the temple with its holy susurrations I remember what deep scouring requires. It adds a valuable perspective to my belief that the deepest cleansing comes from a Divine Healer, a cleansing even more thorough and ultimate than my husband endured in 2007.

Here's a poem inspired by these thoughts:

ICHP (Intra-Perioneal Hyperthermic Chemotherapy) & Isaiah

"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hands, which he had taken with tongs from off the altar..." Isaiah 6:6

Cancer clamped
crusty and gelatinous
in my husband's gut
-- his vitals and bowels.
With slow, relentless onslaught
(a dozen years of dumb, deadly work)
it filled every vacant space;
gripped every surface;
gooey sludge
crushing, stressing,
pressuring,
suffocating him
from the inside out.

A scan,
looking for something mundane,
spotted the scourge.
Quick as we could say
"Oncologist"
We were
Catapulted
Down the dark hall,
Into the no,
No, no, no,
No.

Our/His only hope:
Stretched in cruciform,
Deliberately split, slit
Sternum to stem,
Scooped, scraped,
Redundant entrails
And the shimmering
Destroyer
in steel bowls.

Then Isaiah's hot coal:
poured,
Swathed, sloshed, scoured
into the raw vacuum,
"Lo, this hath touched thee;
and thine iniquity is taken away,
and thy sin purged."

And will we yet have this second,
Greater cure?

And I cried with you, and we said,
"Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory."

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an author and novelist, with an MFA from Boston University. She blogs at The Exponent.