For Thou Art with Me

8 Nov

I knew it was coming. Yet, when it arrived a few days ago, I felt my knees start to crumple and I had to remind myself to breathe. To me, it was more than a simple white note card, folded in half and stapled shut. It was a startling reminder that life after cancer does not return to normal.

Without looking at the return address, I knew who had sent this card to me. Others in the medical field send nice notes to remind us to please call their office at our earliest convenience to schedule our next appointment. Not my oncologist. He knows I would never have the courage to make that call. So instead, he just states the date and time of my next appointment and tells me to be there.

Opening the card, I notice that he has scheduled me to be in the lab for a whole hour. A whole hour? I again have to remind myself to breathe. I mean, how many needles are they planning to poke me with? How much blood are they planning to draw? I suppose there are worse places to be than an oncology lab, but I sure can’t think of any at the moment.

Although a few years have passed since my very first visit to the cancer treatment center, that place still brings back unpleasant memories. I remember the initial shock of entering the crowded waiting room. It was like a scene from a horror movie. Many of the patients had no hair. Others were missing body parts. If you have ever experienced the inside of an oncology center, then you know that it is the valley of the shadow of death. I remember squeezing my eyes shut and telling myself I didn’t belong here. Then I realized that I, too, was missing a body part. Guess I belonged here after all.

And to think I used to get nervous about going to see the dentist.

Sometime later, a nurse called me out of the waiting room and escorted me to a room in the back. Apparently, it was the yelling room, because that’s what she did. She was angry that my oncologist had not received the final pathology report from my surgeon. I never was real clear on why this was my fault. To her credit, she did stop yelling when I started crying. Since that occasion, I’ve tried not to be too hard on her when our paths cross. But it’s difficult to believe that she could have been having a worse day than I was.

Despite my negative first impression, the truth is — the cancer treatment center isn’t all bad. It hasn’t been easy, but over the last few years, I’ve managed to come up with a few good things about that place. For one thing, they have an all-you-can-eat cookie table. My stomach is always doing too many flip-flops to handle eating any of them, but just gazing at those fabulous cookies always provides a pleasant distraction.

Then there are the people. The staff is cheerful and the lab technicians are kind and gentle. They understand that I don’t want to be there. My oncologist is wonderful. He acts like seeing me is the best part of his day. And he’s so intent on keeping me alive. I like that in a doctor.

Perhaps the most remarkable people there at the cancer center are the other patients. Seems like we spend a considerable amount of time together in that large waiting room. As I visit with them, I no longer see the lack of hair or the missing body parts. Instead, I feel the powerful and comforting presence of God as stories are told, tears are shed, and faith is shared.

The patients in that waiting room amaze me with their incredible testimonies of faith. I am strengthened by their courage. I am uplifted by their hope.

And each time I go back to that valley, I am reminded again that I am not alone on this cancer journey after all.

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7 Responses to “For Thou Art with Me”

  1. Amy Nichols November 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    You bring tears to my eyes. You are soooo brave! I went to the dentist last week and was a mess all day – what a baby I am! And for your oncologist, I like that guy too! Love you!

  2. Barbara November 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    I have to agree with you….. the most remarkable people I come in contact with on a daily basis are the cancer patients, or any patient fighting for their lives. I have very little patience for those who have more benign health issues who only complain and whine, are impatient and demanding. They have no idea how blessed they are. I realize that people handle adversity in so many different ways. But if only they realized how fortunate they are and were more thankful that at least, they do not have cancer. Cancer patients are some of the most courageous and gracious people I know. Some days are good, and I rejoice with them. Some days are not so good, and I am not embarrassed to cry with them. I love what I do and cannot imagine doing anything else.

  3. Jaclyn November 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Praying for you Friend. Thank you for sharing.

    A good friend of ours just got the news he is cancer free after 2 brain surgeries and chemo for a brain tumor that was quite large. He has a wife and 3 children under the age of 5. Praise the Lord.

  4. Wagonwife Designs November 9, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    I too will be praying for you. This is my first year walking this road – it certainly has the blind curves and moments of grace along the way.
    You have my heart.

  5. Becky November 9, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Oh Jill, we know each other yet we don’t really. I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and am touched and inspired each time. I’m so fearful of cancer because there has been so much in my family, and I hope if I ever face it like this personally that I will have half the courage you show in what you write. At the same time, I know it’s easier to write courageously than to actually feel it, but you are amazing.

  6. writergirldreams November 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    No Girl, you are not alone. I’m right alongside you while you are right alongside me. And to think I used to get nervous about the dentist too!!! Whoa. Little did I know what was in store for me. Hope all comes back good. hugs Jill.

  7. Sasha November 13, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    My goodness, you move me to tears. You are so brave and inspiring in your courage. Sending much love and blessings to you. Thank you for sharing your experience. I very much enjoy your blog and your openness. Xo, Sasha

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