BHealthy Blog

Thank You, Uncle James

Darla Henry, M.S., CPT, Baptist Health Weight Loss Program Health Educator

Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean, really looked at them? If eyes are the windows to the soul, what are hands? Our hands do so much. They enable us to feel, to carry things, to write this blog. Our hands also do something else very important – they provide comfort.

Last week, my dear, sweet uncle died. I did not lose him – I know where he is. He did not “pass away”. What does that even mean? He died.

At Uncle James’ funeral, I sat between my Mom and my husband, the two people I love most in the world. I held my husband’s hand with my left hand and my Mother’s hand in my right hand. I looked down at my hands. How can a body part so small have such impact? My hands provided comfort and received comfort at the same time. I never really looked at them before.

My uncle had colon cancer. He had surgery and radiation. We thought the cancer was gone, but apparently it had metastasized to his major organs – the brain, liver, kidneys. One by one, these rebellious cells took over.

Have you ever looked at cancer cells under a microscope? To the untrained eye, these cells look normal, but on closer inspection, they are ugly and irregular. These insubordinate cells do not listen to the body. Instead of dying when they become old or damaged, they continue growing and forming new cells even though they are not needed. These extra cells form a mass of tissue called a tumor.

These rebels feel like they are immortal because they are able to stop themselves from self-destructing. Their numbers continue to increase, but cancer cells are immature. The cells are primitive and actually become less mature over time, eventually looking more and more abnormal. Cancer cells are not immortal because they cannot survive without the organism that feeds them and keeps them alive. Their greed for immortality and quest to produce more and more cells eventually kills the very being that is giving it life and therefore the cancer cells die, too.

No one knows the exact cause of cancer. Why one person develops this disease and another does not. However, we can better our chances of survival through early detection. People over the age of 50 should have a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, the doctor will examine inside the rectum and colon using a long, lighted tube. The doctor will also remove polyps.

Uncle James had a colonoscopy and the cancer was detected. Unfortunately, the mutinous cells had spread to other areas of his body. The avaricious little cells took over, destroying their source of life.

I told my husband that my favorite uncle died. My husband asked a curious question, “Why was he your favorite?” I am still thinking about this question. “Why was he my favorite? What made Uncle James special?”

My Uncle James was a kind man. He was a preacher who devoted his life to telling people about God. Did this make him special? There are many kind men and many preachers. Once, when I was at work, Uncle James and Aunt Freda came to visit me. Uncle James was not a blood relative. I am related to him by his marriage to my Mom’s sister. When he came by, someone commented to me, “I can tell he is your uncle. You look alike.” I said, “Well… we are not genetically related. He is married to my Mom’s sister.” This person then said, “Still…there is something about you that is similar.” I dismissed this statement at the time, but since Uncle James’ death, I thought, “Is there something similar about the two of us?” Anne Shirley in the children’s classic Anne of Green Gables was always looking for a “kindred spirit” – someone who “gets you”, someone who sees your good points and overlooks your bad. Uncle James “got me” and I “got him”. He touched my life in many ways. He was a kindred spirit who saw my good points. So, even though he is no longer with us here on earth, I would like to say, “Thank you, Uncle James for being a very important part of my life and my favorite uncle.”