“I have cancer.”
Jocelyn’s voice sounded a million miles away.
Words I never expected to hear from my wife.
I’ve heard the words whispered by too many people I love. They’ve been uttered with tears and a tone that sounds sacred and scared.
Ironically, I was just about to officiate a funeral. Monday March 12th. One of North Pointe’s support staff summoned me from the platform with an ominous request, “Jocelyn needs you. Now.”
Seeing her expression I knew our world had changed forever. “My doctor called. He says I have endometrial cancer.”
The following days were a blur of doctor’s appointments, oncologist consults, scheduling surgery, pre-op briefings, calling family, and sharing with friends who are cancer survivors. The words “so sorry” were heard from so many. We prayed back fear.
One solace Jocelyn held on to was an impression she had in January 2018. We were on a cruise. Out of the blue she heard the words, “You’re going to be OK.” Her first thought was “The ship’s going to sink or Bob’s going to die.” On March 12th she realized those words were meant for her. She was strong before she needed the strength.
A dear friend and cancer survivor brought home a bracelet from a trip to Boston. The inscription on the bracelet was “Wicked Strong.” The phrase became Jocelyn’s go to words. Kinda unexpected wording for a pastor’s wife – but that’s Jocelyn.
The initial surgery date of April 17th was delayed until April 26th because Jocelyn was in ill health. Each day of delay felt like a week.
On the morning of surgery the alarm clock sounded at 4:20am. Not that we ever were asleep. Going out our front door at 5:12am, a bird was singing. En route we saw a rabbit – Jocelyn’s favorite animal after golden retrievers.
After checking in at the Lois Hole Hospital For Women, we found seats in a waiting area. A dedication plaque on the wall acknowledged “The Wiebe Family” – friends of ours.
Connie was Jocelyn’s prep nurse. She was genial, calming, light-hearted and humorous – suggesting I go to Kingsway Mall while waiting, to purchase gifts for my wife. She complimented Jocelyn on the purple coloring in her hair. Seems like everybody loved the purple, including a Dr. Mills who expressed surprise at seeing the choice of color. Makes a woman feel good.
On the day of the surgery a nurse from North Pointe “happened” to be scheduled to work in the surgery-prep ward. Ruth’s familiarity was a godsend. Leading up to surgery Jocelyn encountered four people from North Pointe at four different medical appointments. Godwinks galore.
Jocelyn’s brother – a paramedic – showed up on the ward in his work clothes. We prayed together.
“Time to go.” The moment came all too quickly. We kissed. Jocelyn was wheeled out of her room and onto the elevator. As the doors closed, Jocelyn gave me two thumbs up, smiled and declared, “wicked strong!”
Tears still come six days later. My wife of thirty-nine years was in the good hands of God and those of her surgeon.
Observations About Cancer On A Road Well Traveled
1. A cancer diagnosis compels you to think about what and who is important.
Brenda, a nurse friend, arrived back in Canada from Phoenix and drove straight to the hospital to be with Jocelyn when she came out of surgery. She stayed in our home for three days to help. Our neighbors, and friends came in to visit, talk, drink coffee, share meals, walk together, iron shirts, wash dishes and more.
2. Its OK for people of faith to feel scared with a cancer diagnosis.
3. Cancer is cancer. There is no minor cancer when it’s your cancer.
4. Never say to a cancer patient, “That’s good. Its not terminal like…”
5. Conversations about cancer are hard. Talking about a diagnosis makes it “real.” Emotions run high in patients and family members. Cancer is all they think about but don’t want to talk about.
6. Cancer patients struggle against going to the dark places and answering the “What if” questions with the worst.
7. People with cancer have to battle hard to prevent fear from tipping the scales against faith.
8. Don’t rush recovery. Three steps forward. Rest. One more step. Rest. Rinse. Repeat.
9. Every physician, surgeon, and nurse who served us did so with stellar professionalism, compassion and empathy.
10. The prayers, phone calls, texts, emails, messages, meals, cards, bouquets, baking and home visits from friends and family carried us.
11. Cancer survivors…and families…rule.
APPLICATION: Are you or a loved one facing cancer? What is your journey? Please leave a comment below. Thank you.
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