In December our family was slapped in the face with the news that my oldest brother's wife (who has been part of the family since they were juniors in high school) had pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately this particular kind of cancer and its rather grim prognosis is no stranger to our family. The Aunt who shared my name died of it several years ago. We have had a number of friends receive this diagnosis and most of them have died. It is a scary diagnosis. I gave myself one day to cry ~ and trust me, I spent most of that day crying! ~ then it was time to figure out what I needed to do.
For six months my sister-in-law and I made the three-weeks-on-one-week-off trips every Thursday to the clinic at University of Alabama in Birmingham for chemotherapy. We would check in at the lab, wait for blood work, wait for the results, and then she would go back for a 90 minute infusion. We clearly saw God's hand over every single moment of that time. The physical side effects were more caused by the steroid injection that had to be given before starting the chemo than anything. There were a few blips in the lab work, but never so much that the chemo had to be postponed. Had you run into the two of us there, you would have assumed that we were there to visit a friend; neither of us looked like someone going through chemotherapy for cancer.
We met some amazing nurses (Cathy is one of our new heroes!). We had visits with some people who were waiting on their family member to go through their chemo. We prayed over a lot of people. We were prayed over by a lot of people. We cheered a lot of folks on when it was their turn to ring the bell.
The UAB Kirklin Clinic has a tradition. On the wall by the exit door hangs a bell. There is a poem (that I forgot to copy) that talks about leaving and moving on toward health. The tradition is that when a patient completes chemotherapy, they ring the bell three times to share with everyone that they are DONE. When there are people in the waiting area, they get a round of applause. It is a hopeful time for those who are waiting; perhaps they too will get to ring the bell soon.
On Thursday, June 26th we got the news that the PET scan was completely clean. There is no cancer anywhere. On Wednesday, July 2 when Nancy woke up, she walked outside to find her car looking like this
Her good friend had snuck over early that morning with her daughter and not only decorated the car, but cut out, pinned and hung purple ribbons over the entire picket fence.
Now that is a labor of love!
That afternoon we went in for the eighteenth ~ and final! ~ dose of chemotherapy. My brother was able to leave work and come up to the hospital to celebrate. Nancy came out with the nurses behind her, walked over ('scuse me, I'm getting a little teary here) and it was her turn to ring the bell.
So many people have walked this last seven months with us. You have prayed over Nancy, her husband and her daughters. You have prayed for her doctors and nurses. You have prayed for peace for the family. You have prayed for opportunities to share Jesus with the people we met. Many of you who have prayed are not likely to ever meet Nancy, her husband or her children here on earth. Trust me; you will be getting huge hugs and thank you's when we meet in heaven!
For several months I have carried a picture in my heart of Nancy's last day. I wanted to line the hall and the exit with the people who have prayed for her. I wanted her to walk out and see all the people who love her so much cheering her on. Obviously I was not able to engineer that. But as we walked out on that last day, I realized that God had engineered something much better for her:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3
Oh yeah. They were there all right! And they were singing the song of my heart
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
I think that now I will spend my Thursdays saying "Thank You!!!"