My true cancer survival story continues in “I Saw You in the Moon,” Book Two of my Survival Stories.
Summary: After “Crossing the Chemo Room,” Lonna Lisa Williams’ cancer survival story continues in “I Saw You in the Moon,” book 2 of her “Survival Stories.” Discover what happened to her original characters and meet new ones in Lonna’s further adventures. See how her children grew while she homeschooled them and guided them through figure skating and overseas excursions. Witness a California wildfire and a New Zealand glacier, battle with other cancer patients, overcome the sorrow of miscarriages, explore the enduring beauty of photographs and poetry, and experience the hope of Christ’s resurrection.
Somewhere in the midst of all my post-cancer paranoia, I decided to turn around, face the monster, stop being a victim, and fight. This happened in the year between miscarriages, when my mother-in-law died of lung cancer:
One of my favorite films is a horror story. It reminds me of my fight with cancer. It’s called Alien.
The film starts with a grim, dark, metallic setting as the camera explores a seemingly lifeless spaceship which looks like an ugly, rectangular barge. It drifts silently in space until a computer awakens its crewmembers from their frozen sleep–to answer a distress call from a nearby planet. The crew, in a shuttle, leaves the barge and lands on the planet. An exploration team puts on spacesuits and follows the distress beacon through a stormy desert and to a gigantic crashed alien vessel.
There one of the crew, Caine, finds a cargo hold filled with egg-like things beneath a glowing green sea of mist. He parts the mist and climbs down to examine one cone-like object that opens slowly like a clam. Then something like a giant crab leaps out and attaches to his helmet, shattering the face mask and sending its tentacles down his throat and into his body.
The other team members carry his still-breathing body back to the ship. Officer-in-Charge Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) refuses to let the contaminated crewmember into the ship, but the science officer overrides her and opens the airtight door.
This is their great mistake.
Back at the mothership, the science officer and captain stretch Caine out on an exam table and discover that the alien is controlling his breathing and cannot easily be removed. They carefully slice into one of the crab-like legs that still clings to Caine’s face. Alien blood drips acid through the spaceship’s metal floors–through level after level–almost breaching the hull and entering space.
The alien suddenly releases Caine and dies. Caine awakens. The crew thinks all is well and enjoys a meal together. In the middle of the meal comes one of Hollywood’s most famous scenes–Caine gasps and contorts his face as he grips his stomach in pain. Astounded crewmembers watch as a creature’s head rips through Caine’s chest, splattering blood on them and leaving Caine lifeless and twitching on the floor.
The alien’s offspring scurries away and hides in the huge ship. It
grows quickly, hunts down, and consumes all of the crewmembers but one. We watch through Ripley’s eyes as she, left alone in the barge with the alien, tries to outsmart it and survive.
Today, as I check on my mother-in-law, I feel like Ripley inching down metallic corridors, not knowing around which bend the alien waits.
Ruth, who is 76 years old, hasn’t been answering her phone.
She doesn’t answer the door either. I hear the T.V., her constant companion, blast from inside the apartment. I get out my key, open the door, and peer inside. Though the sun shines outside, in here everything is dusky and stale, the curtains drawn, the windows shut.
Seeing no body stretched on the floor, I step in, holding my breath. I notice the dust and dirt that have accumulated in the corners and countertops, the pile of ashes under the sofa where she sits to watch T.V., the ash tray with its half-smoked brown cigarettes, and the black round burn marks all over the carpet. I walk silently under the stare of Ruth’s handpainted artwork–a lion, a little girl, trees against mountains. Her giant horse statue regards me with unblinking eyes.
Ruth is in the bedroom, stretched out on the bed, eyes closed. Her face holds a gray pallor that shows more than old age. I hesitate a moment before trying to awaken her, wondering if she still breathes.
She takes a while to fully open her eyes. She’s wearing a blue hairnet and a frayed floral nightgown. There’s a cigarette burn on the front of the nightgown, above her left breast.
“Are you alright?” I ask.
“I have been sick,” Ruth tells me. She raises herself on one elbow and then sits up. She grabs her trashcan and spits something into it.
“I haven’t been able to pass my bowels. I haven’t eaten a real meal in a month. And I’ve had these for two or three weeks,” she says, pulling down her nightgown collar to show me a lump above her left breast. It looks like a flesh-colored golf ball sticking out of her skin. “They’re all over my body.”
She shows me another one in her abdomen. It is the size of a lemon and has red feeder veins going to it from all directions, nourishing it, making it grow.
“Here, feel it,” she commands. She grabs my hand and puts it over the scarlet lump. It feels hard and warm to my touch.
I step back and place my hand over my mouth.
I see cancer for what it is–a crab, a dragon, an alien. It has its claws deep into Ruth, and they’re sticking up from her skin for me to see.
“Why didn’t you tell me how sick you were?” I ask.
She doesn’t reply.
“I’ve got to get you to the emergency room,” I decide. Ruth’s light blue eyes look up at me, helpless and afraid. She knows what she’s got there in her body–what those lumps mean.
As I drive Ruth to the E.R., I think of Alien. In its sequel, Aliens, Ripley is rescued from her drifting spaceship where she has been in deep sleep for fifty-seven years. She awakens to a strange world where even the daughter she left has grown old and died. She has recurring nightmares of the alien hiding inside her, feeding on her, killing her as it emerges. She wakes up each night, drenched with sweat and clutching her chest.
Ripley discovers that The Company has sent families to colonize the alien’s breeding planet, perhaps not knowing what lay dormant there. The colonists have not been heard from lately. The Company realizes that they must have discovered the alien ship with its deadly cargo of eggs. They decide to send in the marines. Sick of trying to hide from the terror, Ripley decides to join the marines. She goes on the offensive. She becomes the hunter.
The marines face a whole hive of aliens and soon find out what they’re up against. The aliens are like the essence of evil: relentless, merciless, tireless. They have one desire: kill the humans. After all of Ripley’s marine friends have been killed or wounded, Ripley decides to rescue a little girl named Newt. Ripley arms herself with a cannon rifle, bullets, grenades, and a flamethrower. Alone, Ripley enters caves where aliens, in insect-like stages of development, feed on human hosts. She breaches the inner chamber full of alien eggs. She sets the chamber ablaze and, like a desperate mother, faces the alien queen in a life-or-death duel.
Near the film’s end, Ripley–exhausted and bleeding and covered with sweat–holds Newt on the edge of a metal scaffold. Explosions and debris surround them. The alien queen, furious that Ripley destroyed her eggs, advances with her horned head and pinchers waving. Ripley tells Newt, “Close your eyes, baby.” Then the rescue ship appears behind them, hovering amid the flames. Its robot pilot lowers the stairs, and Ripley and Newt climb to safety seconds before the planet’s surface explodes in a nuclear cloud.
That’s how I feel when I think about surviving cancer.
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