This week is the 4th course of chemo. There are IV fluids, iron infusions for anemia, and a new side effect… annoying hiccups. Last off-chemo week, Dave didn’t feel as well at all. Chemo is cumulative; meaning my husband will probably feel worse, and have to endure more side effects, as he continues treatment for rare stage four colon cancer. He has started to feel muscle pain everywhere; like how it feels when you get the flu. New side effects lead to more appointments, leading to sheer exhaustion.
On Sunday, Dave woke up with severe pain in his stomach. It was located up higher than usual, and he described it as feeling like broken glass moving around inside of him. It was so painful, it made him cry. Oh no! Not the ER again! I grabbed his break-through pain medications. I quickly sent out an all-call prayer request, and his pain settled down within five minutes. If you prayed for him, we thank God for you!
Dave has also developed a blood clot in his arm from the IV he had in the hospital. Though it’s a superficial clot, he’s now on blood thinners as a precaution. The whole blood clot dilemma led to an argument; a huge argument, where we found ourselves yelling at each other in the car. Awesome…
It started a week ago, when I found out Dave had known about the troublesome spot on his arm for a couple days. I got upset that he hadn’t told me, telling him it could be a blot clot. “It’s not a blood clot,” he said, flicking off my concern, as if I was an annoying gnat. “It’s a hematoma.. something…” he trailed off, and then said. “I researched it online and read about it.” I told him he wasn’t a doctor and couldn’t know for sure. He insisted again, “It’s not a blood clot,” but also added, “It’s moved up my arm a little.”
“That’s a blood clot!” I shouted. I felt heat rise in my neck. He’d withheld medical information from me! “I’m your caretaker,” I said, loudly. “You have to tell me everything! A blood clot could kill you!” Then, like a slap in the face, he informed me that the reason he hadn’t told me was that he knew I’d freak out like this. Of course, I’m freaking out! My husband’s not telling me about a possible blood clot!
I brought Dave into the Cancer Center for his IV fluids. He showed the nurse his arm. She called the oncologist, who ordered an ultrasound. We tried to get it that day, but the order wasn’t yet in the system. We got him Chipotle for lunch, and I said, “Let’s call again.” He didn’t want to, saying we could do it next week. No way. He sighed, acting both disgusted and annoyed, when I ignored him, and called anyway. We were told July 20th was the soonest they could get him in. Are you kidding me? It’s a blood clot! We don’t have that kind of time!
We went back home. It was going into the weekend, like it always does when you need the doctor most. So we prayed. Monday came, and we completely forgot to call. We had family and friends visiting the whole day. Our best friends from Florida were the part of the visit. Still, how could I forget to call about this?
I took my daughter to a 4-H meeting that same evening. It was a breath of fresh air. We had a wonderful time visiting friends and farm animals. The girls had a water fight. Normal, fun, kid stuff! Yay! We made plans to sign up our daughter for 4H camp, and she decided to enter the Dairy Poster contest. We’re doing normal things! We’re normal! Kinda…
It’s now the next day. It’s Tuesday, June 3rd: I’ve made all the plans: a trip to Walmart, dropping off the poster, signing up my daughter for camp, the pharmacy; I had a whole loop planned, and then I could come home to rest! Nope! Dave walks into the bedroom, mentioning that something I’d said earlier, reminded him to call about the ultrasound for his arm. That’s good! Wait.., that’s bad! I have plans. Wait.. that’s good! He got in! My brain is firing up, and I’m replanning the day in my mind. It’s doable. I’m getting a migraine now.
We head out to our town pharmacy. Reeds is the best pharmacy ever; where the friendly pharmacists actually care about you. But the truck hasn’t yet come in with either of our medications, so I’ll have to go back later. We run into the next town, and I race through Walmart, as Dave chills out in the car. It may the fastest I’ve ever shopped in Walmart. My daughter is home with her Grammy, Dave’s mom. She’s working on her poster, so I can get it turned in before the deadline, and sign her up for camp.
Ultrasound time. It all goes downhill from here… The ultrasound is an easy in and out. I check him in and decide to wait right out front in the car, because it’s a pretty, sunny day. He walks out and gets in. “It’s a blood clot.” I knew it! But I calmly say, “Are you going to trust me now?” And he loses it. He yells at me, “What do you want? Credit?” Gut punched . I’m dumbfounded. Shocked. And now I’m angry! What is he talking about, as if I’m looking for a trophy?
I tell him I just want him to have a little more faith in me, that I know medical stuff. I know how to navigate the system. I did it the last three years while I was sick before he was; with mono, and then as a Covid long-hauler. My life was rotating through 13 specialists every week, recovering from three surgeries, and going through endless testing at the hospital. I’ve done it for years: diagnosing my own son with rare Eosinophilic Esophagitis, before UVA confirmed it. (By the way, God miraculously healed him!) I have my own autoimmune diseases and seven surgeries under my belt. I research everything, and experience has shown me what to do. I struggle to get my husband to understand how I know the secrets to getting seen earlier, wedging in multiple appointments, and getting in for medical tests sooner rather than later.
I try to tell him all of this, but what comes out of his mouth again, is “credit!” He ends up saying “credit” a third time. Steam must be blowing out of my head. I am now furious! This is not good! I tell him, “I know you’re so sick and feeling terrible, but I am your wife! I am your caretaker! I just want what’s best for you!” But it doesn’t get through. It’s only a couple days later than I read chemo can do this to him. The argument escalates, which is not a good idea when you’re in the car. I’m so angry, I think I’m going to burst into tears. But I don’t. I can’t cry. I hardly ever can. I turned off tears long ago, and now when I need them, they don’t come.
So, now, I find myself just yelling… at a cancer patient. Best wife in the world. And he’s yelling too. My brain is telling me to stop yelling, because it’s not good for him to be agitated. But my body won’t listen. I can’t take it. I don’t know what to do with all the emotions I’ve tried to suppress to make him more comfortable. I pull into McDonald’s to get him the fries he’s craving.
But with all the hubbub, I’m confused and get all turned around. I enter the happiest place on earth the wrong way. “This is the wrong way,” he says.
“I know it’s the wrong way!” I yell. And suddenly, I can’t stop: “I got it! Everything I do is wrong! I can’t do anything right. Worst wife ever!” And I pull out backwards, and everyone is miraculously just waiting for the crazy lady, without honking. Then I squeal my tires, as I pull in way too fast to drive into Jimmy John’s for his sandwich.”That’s real nice,” he says. And I know it’s so not nice.
And then I say it out loud, “I know it’s not nice! I’m not nice! I’m a terrible person. I’ll just drive you around and do what you say, like a puppy dog, because I have nothing to offer. Ooh that’s mean! But I’m more valuable than a taxi. Why doesn’t he understand this? Dear God, please don’t let him think it would be better if he wasn’t here. I truly don’t mind driving him around!
I’m supposed to be strong for us, but the words are a stuck faucet, and I can’t turn it off. There is a flood of pent up emotions, expressing the true disaster in which we are now living daily. “Sorry I’m such an awful person!” Stop talking! He’s emotional too; he’s the one feeling the worst! Right now, I am being an awful person; an awful person that still wants to get my husband the food he wants and the calories he needs.
And somewhere in that line of our ugly talking, I tell him he’s acting like he used to… before Jesus changed him (and before Jesus changed me). It’s bringing up some difficult, painful, and stressful memories.
After the chaos, he says, “I don’t have to get the sandwich.” And my heart breaks.
“Of course, we are getting your sandwich.”
I pull up, and it gets really quiet. He says, “You want some fries?” I shake my head no. I offer to go get the sandwich for him, but he wants to order for himself; not because he’s mad, but just because it’s something that makes him feel normal.
He apologizes, and I mumble, “Me too,” and we head for home. He’s eating in the car, and I’m relieved that he can eat, because I can’t eat when I’m upset. We get home, and I’m completely depleted. He heads over with his arms outstretched, and I lean into them, and we hug. He’s always been the first one to reach out for a hug after an argument. The difference is that sometimes I need some time. I don’t want to waste time. I don’t know how much time we have. And I want his hug, just as he wants mine. Jesus is at the center of our love: “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:12 NIV).
Later, my daughter is a bright spot, as she accompanies me back into town: to turn in the now completed poster, register for 4-H camp, go back to the pharmacy, and do one more errand before heading home. I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.
That night I walk over to Dave’s side of the bed, and tell him I know he doesn’t feel well, and I’m doing my best to be patient. I tell him what I say to him often,”I’ve got your back.” His eyes are closing. He nods his head. I take his hand and say, “No matter what it seems like, I need you to trust me, and to know that my intention is always and only to do what’s best for you.”
“I know,” he says. I give him a kiss good night, and we say, “I love you.” The devil has lost his power of trying to make us believe lies about ourselves and each other. I’m determined to celebrate our upcoming anniversary, and enjoy it. We aren’t giving up! God is greater, and His truth trickles down on us, like a refreshing waterfall. All is forgiven.
This must be exactly how God feels; wanting us to put our complete trust in Him. God really loves us, has your back, and mine; and He has the best intentions for us. But, we continue to question Him in anger, going about things the wrong way; wondering why in the world He is allowing this, or that.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ “ (Jer. 29:11 NIV)
Yet, God forgives us, and is patient with us; knowing we are weak in our flesh, and easily get lost in emotions of guilt, anxiety, anger, and fear. The silver lining is that Jesus understands these things, and he does not hold them against us. For Jesus lived on earth as a man. When we struggle with directions, go the wrong way, or get lost for a while; Jesus turns us back around. He does not yell or get defensive, and he fully forgives us our faults. He lets the past stay in the past. And, our sweet Jesus always comes to us first, with his arms outstretched, to give us a great big hug!
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103: 11-14)
People wonder how we are “being positive” in this situation. But it is only supernatural strength through Jesus. If we can trust God while dealing with rare stage four cancer, so can you. We just need to remember to place our trust in God, and ask for forgiveness when we mess up. And everybody messes up!
When we stray from God, He’s always waiting for us to come back to Him! When life it starts to get dark, God is The Sunset, offering hope for a new day. If we seek Jesus, we will find him. He’s the silver lining, shining bright, in the midst of our storm.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”
(Jer. 29: 12-13 NIV).
Our entire cancer journey, in order by dates, at the bottom of this first post:
Posts about: Trust
Posts about: Forgiveness
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In Christ, Angela Royse Pelleman