The highway was his playground. He rode his sleek, yellow motorcycle through the twisties on Dooley Mountain…turned around and split the air curve after curve going the other way. He experienced the top of Bear Tooth Mountain in July, with snow on the roadside. He survived a night in a tent in Gillette, Wyoming with the wind, hail and rain so severe motorcycles were on their side the next morning.
He did it all with a huge grin on his face.
We traveled through Europe by train for a month with a backpack bouncing on our backs. We walked on a glacier in the ice fields of Canada and lived on a paddleboat for a week as we wound our way up the Mississippi. Boston became a favorite place to visit and we loved San Antonio.
He lived a full life.
He had many passions. It’s hard to understand how making teeth could be one. It filled him with delight to give someone a beautiful smile. And of course he had to stay on the cutting edge of technology. iPads…iPhones…Smart TV…with 3D capability.
But he loved people.
He became a part of what he called his “Starbucks Gang”. When he was too weak to travel to Starbucks, they came to him, telling their tales and bringing a smile to his face. And one special angel just lived at our house, soothing him by the hour. His motorcycle buddies were very special to him. More smiles when they were together. Neighbors brought food. Friends from church gathered round to support him on his journey, some becoming nursemaid and caretaker.
It took a village…and we had one.
When the word cancer entered our world, it began to destroy John’s body, but could not touch his spirit. His desire was that his cancer journey not be wasted; that others would see Jesus shining through. He gave his treatment and outcome to God. Thankfully John had a gentle, caring doctor to be by his side as he traveled…Dr. Jose Ness.
He didn’t quite make it to his anniversary…35 years of marriage to Joy Bach on June 1. This marriage created a blended family of four daughters; Tammi Reed and husband Jim, Lorri Bach, Kerri Reed and Kelly Burkhardt. In addition, a brother, Jim and wife Sam, and five grandchildren rounded out the family picture: Alun Greyson, Matthew Reed, Austin, McKenna and Gavin Breen.
John graduated from this earthly school on May 26, 2015. His three-year cancer journey was complete. His graduation party will be held on June 6, 2015 at 10:30 am at South Hills Church. He wanted me to specify the dress code is casual…no suits.
That is the obituary I placed in the newspaper to introduce its readers to my beloved husband, John.
Cancer had been an unbelievably scary word to me. Several members of my family had succumbed to its devastation. Then came the day John sat on a doctor’s examining table, being poked and prodded.
“This needs to come out. Let’s schedule you for surgery.”
An appointment was made with a surgeon. The offending growth was removed.
“Come back in a week to remove the stitches and I’ll give you the test results.”
Seven days later, John and I met in the parking lot at the surgeon’s office. He handed me the last of a chocolate dipped ice cream cone from McDonald’s.
“Here, I saved the last for you.”
As I looked at the ice cream cone, I thought this might be the last time I enjoy an ice cream cone like this. Depending on what the doctor tells us when we walk in there, we may walk out different people.
First stitches were to be removed. As the doctor snipped on them, John asked, “So can you tell me the results of the test?”
“We’ll talk about that in a minute.”
My heart did a little lurch. If the results were ok, couldn’t he just say, “Everything looks fine?” My heart rate increased.
Finally the doctor began to talk.
“The preliminary report shows lymphatic tissue. We’ll have to wait for the detailed pathology report to know just to what extent it has progressed.”
What exactly did that mean?
Even though John tried to get a clearer answer, the doctor continued to talk in medical terms. But he used words I did understand … like oncologist. He suggested we make an appointment next week to see our doctor.
There was an elephant in the room … one not being mentioned … but filling all my spaces.
Exiting the front door, we hugged on the sidewalk. But nothing was clear to us. We needed to talk to our doctor. Next morning at 9:00 we were in his office. We knew him and that he would tell it to us straight. He had received the preliminary report.
“The growth is malignant. You have cancer.”
The words chemo and radiation bounced around in my brain. This would be a new and untried journey. In the parking lot, we held each other tightly.
John whispered in my ear, “Are you ok?”
Amazingly I answered, “Yes. Are you ok?”
We had been bathed in an overwhelming sense of peace…not an assurance that John would be fine, but the peace of knowing that either way, it was ok. Jesus was right there in that parking lot and would walk this journey with us.
We consulted a specialist in Seattle. After a PET scan and bone marrow biopsy, the drugs to be used in his chemo were prescribed and scheduled...three cycles with three weeks in between sessions. When chemo was completed, John would be given radiation...five days a week for four weeks.
Then the real difficulties began.
John gained twelve pounds in three days. His blood sugar shot off the meter. His kidney function deteriorated. On the fourth day of chemo, he was hospitalized, with IV diuretics flowing into his veins. They trained us in the use of two types of insulin. After two more days, he was discharged.
Two days later he was so fatigued he couldn’t even climb out of bed...and shaking too hard to function. I drove him to the doctor’s office and requested an examining room and two warm blankets. By the time the doctor came, John lay asleep on the table...shivering.
Back to the hospital he went...in guarded condition with no white blood cells and a fever of 100.6.
I lived in the recliner beside his bed. The sign on the door to his room dictated that everyone wear a mask...wash their hands...and bring no fruit or flowers into the room. Night and day blended together. He remained tethered to an IV stand, with more than one fluid dripping into his body. Orange sherbet became the meal of the day. It was all he could tolerate.
As he lay on starched white sheets, feverish and fatigued, a nurse checked his vitals. She spoke to him about his touch and go condition. He roused from his lethargy and said very clearly, “Either way, it’s okay.”
The nurse quickly glanced at me. “Does he know what he said?”
“Yes. We are very aware of his condition. But we have absolute peace this is in God’s hands. We are not worried about the outcome.”
Four days later, John was discharged. We made the rounds of doctors: cancer, kidney and the general doctor in charge of his insulin. All his food tasted like dirt. I scoured the grocery stores searching for something to tempt him.
Then it was time for the next round of chemo.
We discovered chemo affects many areas of the body. There is actually a phenomenon known as “chemo brain”. It clouds their thinking…and they say strange things. As John rested from his third round, his lower jaw began to swell, causing pounding pain. He had an abscessed tooth. After a weekend of taking an antibiotic and pain prescription (which caused vomiting) his tooth was extracted.
Next, he developed a bad cold and loose cough. Pneumonia was a concern. Yet peace reigned in our hearts. God was in control and His love surrounded us night and day.
We truly believed that either way it was okay.
Radiation was next on his agenda. But we had priorities. Months before we had made plans to travel to Phoenix to the second home of one of our Starbucks friends to attend a NASCAR race. The doctor granted him a reprieve to miss one radiation session.
Before the radiation treatment could begin, John had to be fitted with a mesh mask to place over his face and shoulders. I watched as they took a sheet of plastic, placed it in hot water, and molded it to him. Once he was on the table, they would screw this mask into the tabletop and he could not move.
John was claustrophobic. With God’s help he was able to endure 19 times fastened down and immovable. Radiation causes strange reactions. He lost his taste buds, but for the first time in years, John was able to smell.
You win some…you lose some.
In the midst of all this, John’s knee had to be operated on. It was never clear exactly what had caused this problem. So a wheelchair and crutches were added to our medical supplies.
John continued to go to work when he could. One day he called me at my place of employment.
“I’m about to make your day go bad. I’m in the emergency room at Kadlec.”
As he delivered cases to our dentist clients, he felt a little funny, so stopped by the hospital. His heart rate was 30. It took several hours for the doctors to get it beating faster. Later I was told anything below 30 meant you are dying. John was hospitalized for a week as his consortium of doctors worked on him.
He received a pacemaker.
The list could continue of all the treatments, port and stents placed in his body. He called himself the bionic man. But we did not place our life on hold. When he had the strength, we traveled. We stood before our church on two different occasions and spoke of our journey.
John told them, “I’m not afraid of death, but I have to tell you I’m a little concerned about the process.”
Then came the good news, bad news day. His lymphoma was in remission, but he had a growth in his kidney. The day after receiving that news, we climbed in a car and drove to Banff, Canada…a life long dream trip. The growth was in God’s hands.
It turned out to be cancer, which then metastasized to his lungs. While he still had the strength, we took one last trip. Due to his condition, we had to get the doctor’s permission in writing. The cruise line didn’t want John to die on board their paddleboat. We floated up the Mississippi, visiting plantations and Angola Prison.
That was to be his last trip.
Yet we laughed and loved and held parties. Our conversations were not the typical dinner table type.
“So what do you think about me dying?”
“I really don’t want to go to Hospice. Do you think I can just die here at home?”
“What do you think about cremation?’
Two weeks before his death, a small group of young musicians came to the bedroom where he lay, to give him a little concert. When they finished, our church music director asked John, “So did you enjoy that?”
“I’m dying and cannot tell a lie. No. I did not.”
They fell off their chairs laughing.
John was faithful to the end. A life long friend from out of town came to visit. In his weakened state, he was able to lead his friend to Christ. John’s absolute trust in God in the face of death had produced a powerful witness.
God had given us the peace to believe either way it was ok. And it was.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR, LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE AS A MEMBER OR ANONYMOUSLY
Read more articles by Joy Bach or search for other articles by topic below.
Main Site Articles
Most Read Articles
Highly Acclaimed Challenge Articles.
New Release Christian Books for Free for a Simple Review.
NEW - Surprise Me With an Article - Click here for a random URL
God is Not Against You - He Came on an All Out Rescue Mission to Save You
...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them... 2 Cor 5:19
Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Acts 13:38
LEARN & TRUST JESUS HERE
The opinions expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.