It’s been two months since Dave was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and our world was turned upside-down. But, what a gift birthday week was for both of us!
My sister, Lisa, flew up to visit, and it was like no time had passed at all! It was a beautiful day when I picked her up from the airport. We stopped by a local bakery, enjoyed a shared sandwich by the pond, and brought lunch home for Dave.. along with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie. Dave was so happy to see her!
She’d come to help us catch up. We’d gotten so behind because of my own chronic, complicated three year illness during Covid. Now, I was caring for Dave full time. My sister was going to be here for my birthday; and to love on her brother-in-law, my kids, and me. Best birthday gift I could ask for; what a wonderful gift for both of us!
Lisa and I spent time in the sun catching up, and I took a ride on the humble train; as she cleaned and organized my kitchen pantry and shelves, helped pick up my daughter’s zoo (I mean bedroom) of wild (I mean stuffed) animals, and cleaned an entire bathroom; plus did our laundry, and more.
On Thursday, I took Dave to get IV fluids, so he could stay hydrated and feel better for the concert night his friends had planned for the following evening, during off-chemo week. One of my best friends, Monica, had invited my daughter over to hang out with her daughters. On the way to drop her off, it suddenly dawned on me, that I had free time! My sons would be home for Dave, and he was feeling better from the IV fluids.
My sister was already with me, so on the spur of the moment; we decided to go out to dinner for sushi. I didn’t realize how much we needed it, until I almost fell out of my chair at Chopsticks restaurant, because she made me laugh so hard! There’s more to it, but let’s just say she had on a lovely oriental design shirt, with her hair piled up high, all stylishly pretty; and I had on a beat up, stretched out tee shirt; since there had been no time to go home and change. My hair was hanging down in limp, loose, messy curls. I thought I’d try to look pretty too, so I tried to put my hair up like hers, but the chopsticks fell out of my hairdo, onto the floor, and it got a little crazy!
Friday night was concert night. Dave was well enough to enjoy a RUSH concert on the big screen with the guys; and they made it easy to host, because they brought all the food. Boy, did they bring it! A huge pan of marinated meat skewers and vegetables made its way inside, along with generous servings of mixed fruit. It was Dave’s best night yet! He managed the basement stairs several times, and enjoyed about five hours of hanging out with his friends!
My birthday was the next day, but besides my sister flying out to see us, I’d already received my favorite present: watching my husband in his element, acting like his normal, jovial, and very loud self! He was having a great time In our home theater with his buddies. It was such a great night, that it almost made me forget he has cancer. When you’re fighting cancer, it means everything, to be just one of the guys for a night!
Saturday I thought Dave would be worn out. He was tired, yet he still had another good day. We girls did a home foot spa session. Lisa spoiled me with a foot massage for my birthday, and she’s a licensed massage therapist, so just saying; it felt amazing. We both painted our toenails; something we’ve always loved doing together since we were teenagers.
Dave was finally feeling well enough to sit downstairs and dig into the Lego kits he received from his sister, Wendy, and from our sons. Like magnets, suddenly all our kids were at the dining table with Dave, building Lego sets.
Dave was able to join us for dinner, which he’s usually not able to do. Just having him at the table with us made me happy. We had Mexican food for dinner (my favorite, and Dave’s) and a huge vase full of irises, because earlier, my sister and I had taken a walk around the yard, and collected some of my prize beauties. There were presents from everyone, including Dave, who had managed to order several of my favorite kinds of books.
We also had cherry pie from Jake, along with the cake my daughter, Abby mixed; and sister, Lisa had baked. Lisa frosted it with chocolate icing, and she decorated for me. It was perfect! If you want to try orange cake, we have plenty, because Nick ordered the mix for me; since I’d gone on and on about how much I like it, and he didn’t know I’d ordered some a week earlier. Needless to say, I felt loved! We finished the night by playing games, and we laughed so hard, we cried!
Sunday, my whole family was home, which allowed Lisa and I to go for the day to one of our favorite places: Exline Iris Garden in Berkeley Springs. (If you visit, tell my friend, Jim, I sent you!) We got facials and massages; thanks to a generous gift from a dear, dear friend. It was part of a shared gift given to Dave and me, to use as we chose. He insisted we use part of it as my birthday treat. We went to lunch, and laughed out loud, like we always do. We walked among 1800 different kinds of irises, marveling at God’s beautiful creation. This cancer patient caretaker felt refreshed and renewed!
We discovered the Iris Garden, by accident, 14 years ago on my 40th birthday. Just about every year since, my family goes with me. How fitting, and so wonderful, that now, when Dave can’t make the trip; my sister could accompany me, instead. My family was with me after all!
With cancer and chemo, there are good days and bad days. But the silver lining is that God is with us, every day; no matter what kind of day we’re having. For most of us; it may not feel like God is there when we’re having those really, really bad days. But the Bible illustrates that God is closer than our breath, because He lives within us: “But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8 NIV).
When we’re in the pit of despair and depression, it is the time we are most likely to desperately call out to God, and experience The Holy Spirit at work, growing closer to Jesus in our time of need. It’s easy to forget about God when everything is going smoothly, and all is rosy and peachy keen. God is there, whether the skies are dark or bright. It’s why we are told to thank God constantly, consistently; remembering it is Him, Who gives us all of our gifts; both big, and small.
Our Great Big God is in all the tiny details. He knows spring is a big, joyful time for our family each and every year. At first I felt fear when Dave got diagnosed with cancer in late March. Not spring! Not now! Why??? Not ever! My non mom Never! Nooo! I felt despair at the thought of missing out on a Happy Easter, our twin sons’ 23rd birthday, Mother’s Day, and my birthday. It wasn’t about me; it was about our family, and how we always celebrate these happy times together. But when God told me, “Trust Me,” and God told Dave, “Trust Me,” we chose to obey Him. And we’ve found that God cares about these little details too.
As difficult and painful as it’s been, God has graced Dave with strength through Jesus. He has eased his symptoms during these special times, allowing us to enjoy them all, and celebrate, as a family. And, the timing of spring has actually been a blessing: There are cheerful irises, cool days to eat outside on the deck, sunshine for the rides to the cancer center, so it doesn’t feel so dreary. I can sit outside in the white rocking chairs, and write, while I wait for Dave to finish chemo or IV fluid treatments. God knows what we need in the darkness, for Jesus is The Light. He’s God’s One and Only Son, His greatest gift, because it’s shared… with you… and with me.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ ” (Jn. 8:12).
Walk in The Light with us!
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In Christ, Angela Royse Pelleman