Monday, 9 March 2015

when cancer walks into your world...





It happens like this....


Severe stomach pains a week before Christmas.
A scan. A fist sized mass found on the pancreas. (A 'mass' is a friendlier word for 'tumour').
Long days in hospital, waiting and waiting to get a biopsy done. Phone calls, frantic texts, stalking doctors through the halls for answers. Shock and tears and fears and prayers. 
Stunned. Can this be happening? It was.
Home. Christmas. Camp. Family time together, savouring the moment, savouring togetherness, savouring family...collectively deciding to not think about the test results coming and the 'news' we have already been told to expect..
We trek back to the hospital for the 'diagnosis'. We walk through the Oncology Department, past rows of dear souls on chemo drips. Reality. 
'The News': Pancreatic Cancer, wrapped around a vein. Stage Four. Metastasized. Terminal. A reality too great to comprehend, and yet we dumbly nod and take notes and say 'Yes'...
So, here we are and so, this new paradigm sinks in. In tiny horrifying doses, it sinks in, day by day.


When a cancer diagnosis walks into your life, it cleaves itself neatly through your world. The moment you hear 'the news' is defining, never forgotten. It cuts deep - like a violent gash, lives forever marked by the before and after. Without notice, you have joined a community, a frighteningly large one of those affected by cancer.

My dearest step dad (what an inadequate term for the father he has been to me since I was 12!), David, has been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. One of the most aggressive cancers, so they say. A prognosis of mere months.

How do you even absorb news like that?

Our dear David. Just turned 60, fit and healthy. No 'risk factors' at all. No family history. He is such a good, dear man.  Dignified, kind, gentle, funny, godly, full of faith and wisdom. Truly beloved by all who know him. Wise, caring and always, always, always there when you need him. And I've needed him. I still need him.


.......

Honestly, I have wavered over if to share here, what to share here in this space. I didn't want to write anything, I simple couldn't for so long. I don't know why. How can I simply ignore a part of my real life so significant and all encompassing right now... in this here, my little online diary?? And yet... I have been reluctant. I particularly feel uncomfortable about writing much about David here, his journey, his treatment and so on... it feels too personal and sacred. I love him too dearly. Perhaps that seems odd when I write about my beloved kiddos and all matter of things here all the time, but... there you have it, it is what it is. I'm not sure how to explain it. I want to write something, but what could possibly convey what we are going through? Certainly not one measly blog post. But... here it is, my attempt to somehow mark this significant time in our family records...

.......


So, here we are, over two months later....

The grief has already begun. There have been so many tears (so.many.tears), so much anxiety, so much pure sadness- oh, and of course, bouts of anger (usually misplaced and irrational, but there you have it). Sometimes I feel so utterly overwhelmed, both emotionally and physically, that I hardly know how to bear it. But there has also been gratitude, joy, laughter, love and serenity - a peace that passes understanding. What a tumult of emotions there are. 'How are you?' people ask... honestly, it changes by the minute!

Life has changed. A veil has been flung over us, it colours everything, all the time. Our world does not look like it did before. I have the blessing, the privilege, the honour of living just down the road from my parents, of being deeply involved in supporting them during this time. Well, as best I can with three little ones to manage too. Mmmm, yes, I feel torn so often, I wish I could do more, just be there more. It is so hard to witness them suffering, but I am grateful to serve them as best I can.

We cling to our faith. Our God is our rock during the good times - and the bad. 'God moves in mysterious ways' may be a trite saying but the heart of it is our daily truth. His ways are not our ways. Our eyes are so earthly, His are so eternal. Yes, I believe God has the power to heal, to do incredible miraculous things, and for that I earnestly pray. But I also know that He is telling a story here, one I don't presume to know every nuance and outcome of. It is a story of faith, of real every day people. Of a quiet man with a lifetime legacy of a fierce faith, playing out now more intensely than we ever anticipated. And so we hope and trust and walk forward, step by step. So many are finding inspiration and encouragement in David's peaceful response to the wretched news that so many fear. He is not afraid.

But is it fair? Many tell me this is so unfair. I don't know... I don't tend to think like that, I guess. What is fair? The rain falls on the just and unjust, and so, it seems, does cancer. No matter who we are, our metal is tested through challenges and I know that no matter the outcome of this tale of one beautiful life, his metal will be found to be solid gold faithfulness. In this I have peace and find purpose. I find shades of good in the midst of the bad, comfort in the midst of distress, hope in the shadows of despair. We have hope, and for that we are grateful. We have a hope beyond cure.

But still, there is no denying these are dark days. Days I still cannot truly comprehend, the shock only wearing off in small increments. Can this really be happening? It still feels like a wretched dream at times. My mind is constantly calibrating. In the end, I still desperately want David here with us. The idea of my children not knowing him, this is what breaks me the most. I want my kids growing up around their Papa, to learn from his wisdom just as I did and still very much do! That is what I want, that is how I pray, but I know this life, which is so fleeting and precious, plays out in a grander, more purposeful scale than that..

So. We take it day by day, we do all we can, we soak up every precious moment. Moments are all the more precious now. After all, none of us know what the future holds, do we?

In this dark cancer journey, there is light. I see the light in the blessings of family coming together, of church and community rallying around, and of seeing a good, godly man face life's biggest challenge with dignity and grace. It's been said before and yet I will say it again - every day is a gift, and so are those who surround us. Hold close to those you love.

xx

"Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"





20 comments:

  1. No words seem adequate Kate. I will join my prayers with your, pouring out petions to the One who can hold you all as you walk with the daily tension of loving and experiencing joy together while you can and the possibility of imminent goodbyes in this blink of an earthly life. Much love Kathryn xx

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    1. thank you for your encouragement Kathryn, your prayers are so appreciated xx

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  2. Thanks so much for putting this dark time into words. My prayers are with you, dear friend. The journey teaches so much and sounds like you're soaking it all up.

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    1. Anonymous was Andrea!

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    2. prayers right back to you, dear friend xx

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  3. I am so sorry to hear such sad news. I am thinking of you and your family during this tough time. Much love to you all xx

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    1. thank you Janice I really appreciate your kind words xx

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  4. Cancer cuts deep- it does. My mum has been battling it for 8 years. Her days are numbered now too... terminal (loathsome word). But God is faithful, He is good and He is ever present. May you know His love, His peace that passes all understanding, His joy in the moments and His grace when the time comes. I'm so sorry for your hurt and for your babies growing up not fully knowing their beautiful papa- I pray that you will be able to cherish the time you have, make precious memories and be blessed in the journey. I'm so glad you live so close, that's very special! x

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    1. I am so sorry about your Mum, Naomi :( 8 years is a lot of precious extra time but also a long hard battle. I am so thankful you have God's comfort too, let's both cling to that in the hard days ahead. Thanks for your comment and I pray for your family xx

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  5. Such beautifully strong, heartbreaking words... much love to you and your family.

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  6. Dearest Kate. I've walked a similar pancreatic cancer journey with my mum. 8 years ago now. You would think out anyone, I may know the right thing to say, but I don't. There isn't anything I can say that will make it easier or better. I'm so sorry for your family's pain.

    All I can say, and this is true: God is Good. He is, and I say it over and over again. I believe it. My faith was tested when my mother died but His time good and true. He is holding you and I can tell by your words that you know that. Much love and prayers x

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    1. Kelly, thank you so much for your kind words. I am so sorry for the loss of your Mum, I am sure you still miss her deeply every day :( Thank you for your spiritual encouragement. You are so right and it is so true. God is good, all the time, even when things seem dark, He is our light. I am trying my best to cling to that hope, and appreciate you passing that on to me too. Very grateful, and thanks for your prayers xx

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  7. This is such a beautiful article Kate. It is a privilege read to it and gain a glimpse into your struggle with your step Dad's journey with cancer. Your real and honest dealings with pain and grief are expressed so poigantly, it is a testimony of your love for your step Dad and your trust in the One who is holding your family close to Him in the midst of it all. I will pray, along with those around you, that the peace beyond understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus as you walk this difficult path. Keep sharing your story Kate, I am sure many people who are walking their own journey with cancer will be blessed by knowing they are not alone and that regardless of the diagnosis, our real hope is in the promise of eternal life through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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    1. thank you so much Maria, I am so encouraged by your words! Yes, indeed, we have a hope beyond cure and that is something to be so grateful for, no matter what. Appreciate your prayers xx

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  8. I admit when I first read this I went into sheer panic that it was you or mark and started bawling my eyes out. How terribly sad for it to be your father! You always write such kind words, with not a curse in sight... But cancer is a bitch. It deserves that tight! It has wrecked so many lives, hopes and dreams. And I'm so sorry that this is happening to you!! It's so hard as Christians I find when things like this happen, you are angry and hurt and confused and sad. Just wanted to say it's ok to feel those feelings. Praying all my payers for David tonight. I'm hoping he isn't in too much pain. Thinking of you dear Kate! Xxxx

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    1. ooh goodness, I am sorry to give you such a scare :( but thank you for your wonderfully supportive message and prayers. I really appreciate them xx

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  9. There are no words, thinking of you and your family xxx

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