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.
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.
"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?"