This happened last week, but was left unfinished. Dave and I both want to tell this story, because people need to know cancer is a beast, even if you know Jesus. But it’s more bearable if you do! Currently, Dave’s on his second round of chemo, and he’s hanging in there.
That wasn’t the case on May 6th when I wrote:
Dave’s in the hospital after our day from Hell. He stayed overnight and we praise God he’s coming home today… again. If you’re reading our journey, you’ll know we are always looking for the silver lining in the stormy clouds of stage four colon cancer.
But man, those clouds were really dark yesterday. Yet, we’ve both agreed we have to share this really bad stuff, along with sharing God’s blessings. If we don’t; those with cancer, and other hardships, won’t believe us about God’s goodness. Who would be able to relate? Because this is no picnic in the park. It’s surreal, exhausting and unbelievably difficult.
Our twin sons’ birthday celebration went great the day before. It was low key, because we were all tired; but we were together. And that’s what counts! We ordered take out dinner, which Dave enjoyed; along with a birthday pie and an ice cream cake, presents, and several episodes of a Comedy; which we watched in our bedroom.
We went to sleep, and at 2 a.m. the nightmare began. At 4 p.m., it continued. And at 6 a.m. all hell broke loose…
2 a.m. There’s a leak in the ileostomy bag. We’re tired and stressed, but I help Dave change out the bag with a new one. He’s really exhausted and upset, but we get it done. The sheets are fine, and we’re finally able to climb back into bed.
4 a.m. It’s already an awful time to be woken up. Hellish, if it’s an ostomy bag of any sort. Leaking. Again. WTH?
The ileostomy bag has leaked. It wasn’t disgusting; it was mainly just water. Yet, that bag is attached to his intestine. This means everything has to be washed and sanitized, regardless. Dave was very tired, distressed, and exhausted. The bag is usually changed once a week, but we had to change it. Again.
Changing the bag is exhausting when you don’t feel good, and not very fun, even if you do. It’s a detailed process with cleaning, adhesive remover, cleaning, sticky adhesive for the new seal, cleaning, and holding it to the skin for about forty minutes so it will really stick. Well, that’s a little hard to do at 4 a.m. when you’re out of your mind with fatigue. Got it done. Lights out.
6 a.m. I’m jolted awake when I’d just fallen asleep. Not again! Another leak. WTF? (Yes, this is a Christian blog, but we’re real people with real struggles, and we want to be raw and honest. We are far from perfect. The good stuff you read is from God. The crap (literally) is from us; sinners in the flesh. I’ve already changed the bedding once, and I know I have to do it again, but Dave needs me.
We are trying to change the bag, but the water from his stoma (which is on his stomach, attached to his intestine) won’t stop leaking. We can’t even get the new bag on. I’m aware that it’s actually diarrhea, a side effect from his chemo. Gross, I know, but it was just completely lightly colored water. Still! We have a large trash can, and we’re trying to catch everything, and we just can’t. It still ends up on the floor, and later I end up stepping on it in my bare feet! This sucks! We are trying to balance all of this, while keeping everything clean and sanitized, and still struggling to put on a new bag on; all at the same time.
It just isn’t freaking happening! We try three times. A couple of the precious bags have to be thrown out. There’s only one left. Dave is bent over holding onto the sink, about to pass out. He’s lost so much weight, I might be able to catch him if he does. I sure as hell will try! He’s freaking out; so angry, cussing and yelling in anger, frustration, and pure exhaustion. I so get it. But I ask him to calm down, so he won’t wake our daughter and scare her. That works.
Meanwhile, we are both completely crying. I’m trying not to; I don’t cry easily, but his distress and suffering is just too much, and I cave. I’m so tired. My brain feels scattered, trying to find the things he needs, and do what needs to be done. Me, crying; kind of calms him down, because he doesn’t want to upset me. Somewhere in there, we both express to each other we’re not mad at each other: we’re angry at the cancer… the beast, our real enemy.
6:30 a.m. That was so traumatic! I dive into bed after having gotten Dave back to sleep, cleaning everything and putting supplies away. But there’s more to do. Dave asks me to take his phone and cancel the two visits he was looking so forward to at 9:30 and 10 this morning. He can’t do it now. I text his wonderful boss to reschedule the Zoom call with the team who has generously blessed us: emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I text my friend, Sara; to tell her Dave can’t meet with Adam after all. Adam is our friend who had a stroke right after Dave was first admitted in late March. Adam had managed to navigate his way up to Dave’s room in a wheelchair. He had sent Dave a wave of encouragement, just as Dave was being told he had aggressive stage four cancer. That’s God’s work!
As I’m messaging, I see another text: “I’ll leave the check in an envelope on the garage for you at 9:30.” Oh my gosh! Dave thought he’d be up and around, but he won’t be. The check is payment for our collapsed back deck stairs, which somehow Dave managed to arrange. I know where the check is, so I run downstairs to tape it to the garage, so I can go back to sleep.
6:40 a.m. It’s raining. Hard. I put the garage door up halfway, duck under, tape the envelope to it, and duck back under. I’m in rubber rain shoes, but my wet garage floor doesn’t care. My left shoe slides across the slick surface, and I kid you not; at over 50 years old, I do a full split where my left leg flies straight out sideways. Are you serious? I could barely do the splits when I was a 17 year-old-cheerleader. This is not good.
“Are you serious, God? I’m in physical therapy for my painfully inflamed hips! Why? We are trying to do the right thing, and tell others all about you! Why is this happening?” I wait for tears, but not many come. Even after healing from my childhood, I still have trouble crying from the years of learning to just turn them off. I found it didn’t make a difference when no one cares to comfort you.
6:50 a.m. I hobble and limp back into the house, and suddenly I’m angry! I feel rage beneath the surface; something Jesus healed me of long ago. I get mad easier than sad. I take off the rubber shoe that let me down, and throw it at the mudroom window. “I hate this house!” It’s easier to be angry at the house; it can taking a beating, I guess. I think I’m alone, because it’s so early. But suddenly he’s there… my son, Jake, who is the first one to wake up every day to draw, get coffee, and head off to work. He says nothing, just opens his arms as wide as he can. I know the space is for me, and I throw myself into the arms of this safe, strong man; one of my twin sons. He hugs me tight. Someone cares to comfort me. Something breaks. And I sob. My son holds on, and lets me cry. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isa. 41:10 NIV).
7:00 a.m. I go upstairs to the bedroom to crawl under my covers. I think how grateful I am for Leslie, my compassionate friend and physical therapist; who is there for me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. She’ll fix me! And then before I fall asleep, that well-meaning saying I can’t stand, flashes through my mind: “The Lord won’t give you more than you can handle!” BS; I’m angry and exhausted. But what irritates me most, is that it’s not even a Bible verse. I pass out before thinking: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
12:30 p.m. Ding! Dong! A sledge hammer is slamming in my head. Migraine. We’ve slept through lunch. The air conditioning guy is here! Dave has set up that too, thinking it would be fine. I thought he was due at 2 p.m., but that’s something else. I run to the door; no make up, hair unbrushed, tee shirt and sleep shorts; how embarrassing. But I kind of just don’t care. He’s really nice. He smiles and slips his booties over his boots, because my daughter made a sign for our door: a picture of shoes with words: “Please remove shoes. Cancer patient lives here.” I sit at the kitchen table with my daughter, having a cup of dandelion caramel nut tea. It feels comfortable. Normal. Nice. The air conditioning tech gives some good advice on saving energy. He takes care of everything quickly and efficiently. And I feel better. I can breathe.
2:00 p.m. Our dear friend, Caleb comes by. He’s brought watermelon and ice for Dave. Things are looking up! Dave is happy, and in very good spirits. Dave’s enjoyed playing in the worship band with Caleb, for years, along with our twin boys; now men. It was Caleb who finally managed to get them on stage to play guitar and drums. We’re forever grateful. Dave’s doing so well, the visit lasts for two hours. Both men pray for each￼￼ other. We’re feeling relieved.
6:00 p.m. Dinner is dropped off by Bobbi, and it’s delicious! Chicken casserole and chocolate chip cookies… favorites! There is even breakfast, little ham omelette egg cups. and they’re so good! I’m in awe because now this precious friend is off to her parents’ house to deliver their dinner as well. They have health issues, and she does this every night!
6:30 p.m. Dave has eaten well, and I’m thankful. But, I discover that he’s been emptying his bag more often than normal. He’s losing a lot of liquid, and we discuss calling the oncology office, because this doesn’t seem right. The nurse mentions stage 3 dehydration. I know she’s told Dave to come in to the ER, because his face is crestfallen. And then his face is resigned. We have to go to the ER… for the 7th freaking time! Dave ends the call, hangs his head, and begins to weep. I’m heartbroken for him. I have no tears. Instead, I shift into gear: “Let’s, go, Babe!” And we head out as a team.
7:00 p.m. Check in. Dave thinks we’ll be here for hours. He’s so nauseated, I’m concerned he’ll pass out. Thank God the ER isn’t crowded though. The regular weekend addicts come in with lots of police men. I say a prayer for them. It’s still not crowded.
8:30 p.m. Dave is given a room in the ER. For two hours we wait for the doctor to come. Meanwhile, he’s in and out of sleep, trying not to vomit. Thankfully, he never does. I’m watching him like a hawk. Dave’s face, the machine with the oxygen STATS, updating on my phone; and then starting over again.
10:00 p.m. The Oxygen STATS beep and dip down towards 90. I know how this works. We had NICU twin babies that came home on lung monitors, with one having to be on supplemental oxygen. I know this isn’t good. The machine is still beeping as I head to the door, while his oxygen further slips to 86. He’s pale. I open the door and tell the nurse his oxygen is at 86. She jumps up, saying the alarm didn’t go off! (What the… ?) I say, “Now it’s down to 78.” Quickly she comes in with oxygen. His color eventually comes back, and the nausea meds that were approved have kicked in. Thank you, Jesus!
11:00 p.m. Dave’s being admitted to the hospital. The drop in oxygen, and nausea with diarrhea, are enough cause for nurses to monitor him overnight. I feel bad I can’t bring him home, but honestly, I’m relieved. I don’t have to worry that he’ll stop breathing when I’m asleep. And frankly, I’m exhausted. I hear my closest friends saying, “Take care of yourself too!” Tonight I can do that. I offer to stay with him but he says it’s not necessary. I think I need to go home anyway, so my daughter won’t feel afraid. I just want to go to bed.
12:00 a.m. I’m leaving the hospital. Dave hasn’t understood why I was adamant that his oxygen be monitored. He has said he just felt really sick. But I’m the one who has seen it, and it was serious. I have a hunch it’s because he was so severely dehydrated.
The next day, I found out I was right. Severe dehydration causes your blood pressure to drop, and then your oxygen drops too. Mayo Clinic says so! God protected my husband, and I’m beyond grateful.
We were so happy that Dave was able to come home the next day. In the rush, it gave us a laugh that I almost forgot to bring him his clothes! I’d brought everything home with me the night before. God reminded me to bring his clothes too!
The reason I’ve shared this day of disaster (which is far worse than our basement flooding) is because Dave and I want everyone to know that yes; there are some very bad days. But through it all, we still trust God and believe His Son, Jesus Christ, is the One and Only Way to eternal life. The silver lining is that God continues to send people to be the hands and feet of Jesus for us. We see, hear, and feel Jesus all around us. If we know God is The Real Deal, while going through this horrific trial; why not give Jesus a chance? Because, everyone will some day have a trial which will bring them to their knees. It’s best if Jesus meets us there!
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Pet. 5: 1-4 NIV).
I invite you to visit:
The Silver Lining Blog. Free subscription, no ads.
The Silver Lining Ministry Facebook Page. Join us!
In Christ, Angela Royse Pelleman