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Barbara’s Battle with Cancer

The Ups and Downs


I was in shock when my best friend called to say that she had cancer. I was dumbfounded as I listened to her telling me that she had ovarian cancer and would be having surgery in a few weeks. Numbness struck as I thought it is the week before Christmas; her favorite time of the year.

She survived the surgery and the prognosis was good. She would have to undergo radiation and chemo, but they were optimistic that they had gotten it all. I looked at her when she came home and was amazed, she was ashen and her bright eyes were dull. As usual, she was optimistic and raved about how she had lost so much weight. We joked as this was a constant battle for her.

Our lives changed drastically. We had always done shopping trips, lunches, get togethers and so much more. Little did we both realize that our lives for the next two years would revolve around doctor’s appointments, meal preparation and anything that had to do with this damned cancer.

The chemo treatments started. I took her to the treatments as I worked nights and her husband worked days, so it was easier. The chemo made her violently ill. She dreaded them as she started feeling good the day before the treatment and felt lousy the rest of the time.

Her appetite shrank as did her weight. She had no strength to cook and no interest in food. No problem, I would make extra when I fixed my families meals and bring over dinner. I tried everything and anything to tempt her appetite – nothing seemed to work. Every night I called and it was always the same, “it was good, but I just wasn’t hungry”.

The doctor’s decided that perhaps radiation would be better since the chemo was making her so ill. it did seem better she was not so violently ill, but there was no appetite. She said everything tasted like tin. I learned not to fix her favorites, to try other dishes and combinations. This seemed to work, but then nausea set in, everything made her sick. The doctor’s prescribed a pill for her that was supposed to lessen the nausea. These were like gold – $60 a pill and not covered by insurance.

During this time she developed a problem with her leg – it always ached and she never felt good. She had back problems due to her being so overweight. The leg and the back problems just added to the difficulty of her treatment.

So many times we would go for her radiation treatment to be told that the bed was not working, could we come back later, which we did. This took its toll on her as it was always the chore of getting there and having the treatment and leaving, when we had to wait or come back, it made it so much worse.

When the radiation was finally over, she went for her examination and the results were good – they could not find any trace of the cancer. It had been 6 months – we were overjoyed. Life started to get back to normal. Barbara’s appetite increased, she went back to work part time and all seemed well. We went on day trips, we did shopping and everything seemed to be back to normal. This was short lived.

I went over to take her to work one morning and she said that she didn’t feel well. I asked what was wrong and she said it wasn’t anything in particular, she just didn’t feel good. She made a doctor’s appointment and we went. They took more tests and could find nothing, maybe she was just tired. It didn’t change, she never felt good. We started going to her regular doctor, the cancer specialist, her allergist and an internist. No one could find anything. Yet, she didn’t feel good.

July 4th of 2000 came and we spent the day together. She and her husband came over for a barbecue and despite me having all her favorites, she barely ate a thing. We did a lot of laughing and enjoyed the day. The next day, she was vomiting and just didn’t feel good. Once again, we went to the same doctor’s and they could find nothing out of the ordinary. A blood test revealed that her levels were a little low. A liver scan was suggested for July 20th.

Barbara and I talked about everything, but for some reason we just could not talk about this liver scan. We did as much as we could in the two weeks before this scan. We went shopping, watched TV and just enjoyed being together. Going out was difficult as we now had a walker, cane and a pocketbook full of pills. We laughed and acted like this would go on forever.

July 19th came and we both thought that a special day would be appropriate. It was pouring that day, but we vowed not to let the rain dampen our spirits. We went up to the local farm and got some fresh picked corn on the cob and proceeded to the grocery store to get her a salmon steak – her absolute favorite. She suggested that we go to Stewart’s for lunch as she was craving their fish sandwich. As we were driving there, a deer ran in front of the car. We commented on how unusual it was to see a deer and how beautiful it was. Lunch was a disaster, nothing tasted good and she was too tired to eat. She asked if we could go home – this was not “my Barbara”.

Barbara, her walker, cane, pocketbook and I made it up the 19 stairs to her apartment and she laid down. Soon, it was time for me to go to work. We hugged each other and didn’t want to let each other go. I got called into work during the day on the 20th and could not go for her scan. She told me not to worry, her sister-in-law would take her and she would call me the minute it was over.

I called her the night of the 19th, but her husband said that she was asleep. The 20th came and I called her to wish her good luck and gave her my love. She reassured me that I would hear from her by 10:30 since the test was at 9:00. We told each other how much we loved each other. 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:00; 12:30 came and went and no phone call. I called her husband at work and was told that he left and went to the hospital.

Panic set in. I called and got a wonderful operator who put me through to the emergency room where she was. She had an effect from the scan, and was not doing well. Her heart rate was not good, her breathing was shallow and she was in pain. I called again and spoke to her – she was so weak, she said “thanks, sorry I didn’t call you – I love you”. I told her how much I loved her.

Finally, her husband called, when they did the scan she had been full of cancer and the scan released the cancer into her system. She had about 48 to 72 hours. I was in shock. I went to the hospital and after much hassle finally was allowed in to see her. I was not family. I looked at her – gone was the radiant color in her cheeks, the bright, sparkly eyes never opened. I held her hand and told her that I loved her and I felt a slight squeeze on my hand. It must have been a reflex I was told, she was in a coma. Barbara left us on July 20th at 1:14 a.m.

A Healing of Cancer and a Faith in God

Her cancer treatments began seven months ago when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. I remember coming to her home last June and seeing her with her daughter, sitting on the couch.

Tears filled her eyes as her broken words filled my ears. I heard her say, “I’m going to die.”

Being set back for just a moment, I replied with, “ok… We all are going to die one day… What’s going on?”

That’s when she told me about the cancer. I took a breath and assured her that she wasn’t necessarily going to die. It was in Gods hands as to the pending results.

I told her my twin brother had Lymphoma cancer and he was supposed to be dead 20 years ago, yet he is still running around the beaches on the gulf coast.

I think what I said to her made her feel a little better, still I know her heart was filled with unknown fear. Her future was uncertain and being a widow of cancer and loosing a son to cancer, she cried outwardly and deep within her soul.

She asked me if I would leave her as her friend. I answered that when I make a friend, it’s solid through thick and thin and I would be there for her through the whole ordeal.

I told her that she had to promise me something from the get-go. I asked her to put it completely into Gods hands. To let God work through the doctors to heal her. I asked her to believe this and for argument sake to just believe she was already healed. She again asked me to help her through and to help her believe.

Immediately, we began to read the New Testament and pray on an every day basis. It wasn’t much longer when she asked if she could be baptized at the local church. We contacted the preacher of the church, told him of her situation, and requested him to fulfill her wishes. After he discussed the mater with her, he set it up and that alone brightened her outlook to a new, positive one.

She began her treatments as required by the doctors and I encouraged her in her daily treatments of Gods word.

Time went by slowly for her and soon her fears of loosing her hair began to surface. I, being the comic I am, made jokes about it and kept her laughing. I said she could be a female Ko-jack, a GI Jane, or a real chrome dome. I volunteered to polish it for her so she could let her light shine. I know it all was stupid or silly but it kept her mind off of her problems.

She still refused to totally drop the hair thing and so soon enough we were visiting wig stores. That was fun! Have you ever gone into one of those places and just tried them on for the fun of it?

It was the visits to the cancer center that saddened me as I stood by my promise to go with her. I saw people with all sorts of cancer, people who had a cancer and refused to quit the cigarettes, people that cheerfully went about their lives and being torn up on the inside didn’t let it show. I saw people that looked like and acted like they were already dead. Still mostly, there was laughter and friendships being made as each person waited on their turn to be treated.

They compared their treatments with each other and encouraged each other as the days turned into months. Some people didn’t fair well throughout the process and some did very well, yet I saw a bonding between the center staff and the patients, a bonding of friends who shared a common foe, a bonding of Christians and Non – Christians alike.

It amazed me how even the staff and the doctors encouraged prayer. It was said by one doctor that he could only point the radiation at the cancer but it was up to God if it was to do any good. I heard another doctor say that he had done all that he could but the rest was in Gods hands.

It amazed me that each and every person working in the center felt that strongly about their faith but I didn’t stop to think that they see and go through the demons of cancer on a daily basis; that they made a career doing it.

I smile at this thought and a twinkle enters the corner of my eye. I am so thankful to have made this journey, to see and hear what I have. I am truly grateful to have been a part of these peoples lives.

My friend has finished her treatments now and after her last pet scan, she was told by the radiation doctor that there was no evidence of the cancer on the x-rays. Today, the cancer doctor told her she was doing well and that her cancer had gone into remission.

This time I saw her with tears of joy as she praised God.

It’s not over yet, she still has to follow up and be monitored for the coming years because unfortunately cancer can rear its ugly head again.

Now she feels Gods hand on her life and she knows the rest of the journey will be a good one and made with smiles. “Ain’t God Good!”

Cherished Wishes: A Cancer Patient’s Prayer

My friend Buck has a post on Facebook that says, “Every person has 1000 wishes, a cancer patient only has 1, to get better.” Reading his post my thoughts turned to how much I take for granted and how seldom I give thanks for the things in my life that really matter. I live with my daughter and son-in-law and their two children and they love and nurture me. I have a job two and a half blocks from my back door that I love. My pastor once told me to get a roll of cash register tape and start writing down the things that I was thankful for on it, re-rolling as I went. I filled the tape and had barely scratched the surface. I wish now that I’d never quit writing.

At church one Sunday evening my pastor asked for testimonies of thanksgiving. A big, burly man stood to his feet and with tears streaming down his face began to give a list of things that he was thankful for. He said, “Thank you Lord for eyelashes that protect my eyes. Thank you Lord for fingernails that I just take for granted. Thank you for the hair on my head and for two strong legs to carry me. Thank you Lord for hands that can take a glass of water to my lips, or hand a bouquet of flowers to my wife or a kitten to my daughter. At this point he paused for half a moment as the entire church sat in silent awe. This was a tough man, huge in stature and this was a side of him that few of us had ever seen.

With a great sigh and a valiant sob he continued, “Thank you GOD for the dirt beneath my feet and the grass I complain about when it comes time to mow. Thank you for the rain, and the sun, and the stars, and all that you have provided for me, for butterflies . and starry skies. OH ! Forgive me Lord for taking all of this and so much more for granted.” It was as if he slid down the back of the pew. Once seated he took his face in both of his big work roughened hands and wept.

Our pastor started giving thanks and asked each of us to stand and thank the Lord for all that we each individually had reasons to be thankful for. It is an hour in my life that I will cherish unto death. The man across the aisle was giving thanks for his babies life. She had been born with multiple holes in her fragile, tender heart and saved by a surgeon’s GOD guided hands. The man in front of me was giving thanks for surviving the truck that he was under, working on, that fell off it’s jack and landed on his chest without killing him. The little girl behind me was thanking God for bringing home her lost kitten. A woman at he front of the church was giving thanks for her wonderful, loving husband and two precious, honorable sons. The pastor’s wife was giving thanks for GOD’s mercy and forgiveness.

I gave thanks for being so loved by GOD that I was allowed to be present and witness this big, burly man be called to stand and share some of his reasons for rejoicing and a church that boldly spoke out expressing their thanksgiving. Buck I;m thankful that I don’t have cancer and that my children and grandchildren don’t have cancer. I have faced death on more than one occasion. You know of the brain tumor that should have ended my life and you know of a magnificent FATHER who spared me. Your posting made me realize just how little I express my appreciation and how few look at me an recognize my love for GOD.

I complain of being hot instead of giving thanks for the sun. I whine when getting wet instead of giving thanks for the rain. I cry when I am cut instead of giving thanks for GOD”s healing power built into my cells. But right this instant I am thankful for a friend who provided me with a wake up call and in so doing gave me an opportunity to give 1000 thank yous to my savior and creator. My wish is GOD’s blessings on your life for giving all that would receive it “Such a Special Gift.” I told your son that the way I felt about you was that GOD had carved a special shelf in my heart and tucked you away inside. So I am not at all surprised that he opened up your shelf and used you to speak to me. Borrowing my daughter Steph’s words I say, Isn’t it just like HIM?