My vision dimmed and my legs involuntarily crumbled. My body came to rest on the edge of my bed. The words from my doctor on the telephone had taken my breath. "Donna, you have cancer."
My day had started early that morning. My husband's job had transferred him to a new town only one week earlier. We had loaded up the children, all the furniture, family pet, and everything else we needed to start our new life. I had rolled out of bed early to get a head start on organizing our new home.
We had envisioned our move to be a step upward as my husband got a raise, we had bought a lovely home, the neighborhood was nice, and the schools seemed exactly where I wanted my children to learn.
Only two weeks before, I had realized I was past due for my yearly physical exam, so I had gone to get that out of the way prior to the move. My doctor now was calling me with the results. At 27 years old, I never expected the words I heard from her. "Cancer-surgery right away."
My thoughts immediately flooded with images of my three small children without a mother. "Oh dear God, what will my children do without a mother? No one could ever love my children as I do." I had been the one who nursed them, rocked them, bathed them, tended to their hurts, dried their tears, wiped their noses. I was the one who gently placed my hand on their chest many times while they slept, just to make sure they were breathing. I was the one who sat in the rocking chair while I nursed them as babies and actually cried, emotionally overcome that God had blessed me so.
And my husband. What would he do? And my parents, my dear sweet parents. They ofcourse would never expect to be burying their only child.
Fear gripped me from my very core. But as a mother, a wife, a child, I could not express my fears. I had to "be strong." Afterall, that's what everyone kept telling me. "You'll be allright. Don't cry." So I did not.
We drove back to our previous town for me to have the surgery. First 3 days of testing had to be done to confirm the diagnosis, but in the end the results were the same, cancer. During those 3 days, my thoughts often were of one particular patient I had cared for in my nursing career. She also had cancer and she too was young. Everytime I closed my eyes I could see her. " Her eyes were sunken and dark. She was pale and emaciated. And she died." I tried so hard not to close my eyes, not even to sleep. I was scared, but could not allow myself to cry. I could not do that to my husband who was so concerned about not being at his new job. I could not do that to my Mother who was there by my side. She would not express her fears to me although I knew she was hurting. I would not express my fears to her, although I so desperately wanted to put into words what I was feeling. I went into surgery with all those feelings smothering me.
I stayed in the hospital for one week following surgery. So many friends came to visit, so many family members, so many nurses were in and out performing their nursing skills so proficiently. Everyone was so up-beat, "Oh, you look so good, you're going to be just fine, isn't the weather nice, I need to give you an injection, take your pills." They were all so wonderful, especially my Mother who tirelessly tended to her child. But no one, not any one of them ever said to me, "Donna, I know this must be so frightening to you. Why don't you talk to me?"
But then the day before I was to leave the hospital in walked Susanne. Susanne and I had gone to nursing school together several years prior, but she had her group of close friends and I had mine. We had worked at the same hospital, but different floors and rarely had seen each other when I had worked there only a few weeks before. She had poked her head in the door earlier that morning just to say "hi". I did not expect to see her again but after her shift was over, she came back to my room. She asked all the visitors in my room to leave for just a few minutes and respecting her white uniform authority, they left. She pulled up a chair close to my bed, took my hand in hers and said, "You need to talk." Suddenly someone was not saying, "don't cry." The tears flowed uncontrollably. Between sobs I talked about my children, my husband, my parents, and all the fears that had been shackled. The relief was overwhelming and therapeutic. I slept for hours after she left.
This precious, perceptive soul did not stop with me. She took my husband into a private waiting room and he voiced his fears to her. He had been told by his boss that a hysterectomy makes women frigid, fat, and ill-tempered. I had no idea he thought such. He had not voiced his fears to me. Susanne sat with him and did some much needed teaching.
It has been 30 years now since my surgery. I asked for God's mercy to allow me to live to see my children to independence. He did. I thought about His grace when my last child walked down the aisle and left home. God has been good to me. He was good to me 30 years ago when he sent an angel in a white uniform to my hospital room and gave her a heart that saw my need. She pulled up a chair and allowed me to reach out to her. I thought about Susanne as I pulled up a chair when my Dad was in the final stages of cancer 3 years ago. "Dad, I know you're scared. You don't have to be brave for me."
Too often, needs go un-met. Our own fears guard us from allowing others to get "naked" before us. There is no earthly being who can comfort, console, or strengthen us the way our Lord can, but often He works through His children. He puts people who have needs in our paths every day. Ask Him to make your heart sensitive to those needs. We want to get to heaven and hear Him say. "every person I sent across your path was blessed because of your ministry. Well done. You have no need to cry."
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