My vision of 2019 being a “better” year faded quickly. Within a week my husband was diagnosed with severe COPD and out-of- control-diabetes. As his “nurse” and health manager, I was faced with purchasing, organizing, and tracking more meds, finding a Medicare-approved company for more equipment, monitoring his blood pressure and blood sugar, and encouraging him to eat – and choose a healthier diet. The weather was dark and gloomy and our attitudes were the same. He was feeling miserable and I was dragging.
On January 3, I woke up dreading the day. I needed a blood test to prepare for an appointment with my oncologist next week. That and a bone survey I had just after Christmas would determine if I would have to resume chemo. When I walked downstairs and out of our apartment and was immediately blinded by the sun. I was surprised and relieved. This was a good sign.
I drove to the Cancer Center and got in the check-in line. An elderly man came in right behind me, and I glanced back at him to see if I knew him. I did not. He was rail thin and bent over. He was dressed in jeans and a jacket, and a well-loved baseball cap covered somewhat shaggy gray hair. I sat down to wait for my blood draw. Soon he claimed a chair a seat away from me and waited for his.
I was not in a particularly friendly mood, but I have learned that smiles and greetings are really important in this office. So I smiled and greeted him. A few minutes later a nurse came to get him to “clean his port.” He responded that he had to go to a Grand Rapids hospital the next day for a procedure, so maybe the port didn’t need to be flushed today? She agreed that he didn’t need it and walked away.
He looked over at me and said, “Ports are better than IV’s. When you have IV’s, they just stick the thing in and it hurts! They don’t even numb you.”
I smiled and said that I don’t know anything about ports, but I do know that IV’s can hurt. Just then I was called in for my blood draw. While the nurse prepared to take my blood, she asked, “How was your Christmas?” Determined not to be gloomy or negative, I said, “It was great! A group of friends got together behind my back and bought me several Meijer gift cards to help cover costs for my insulin and other medications.”
“That’s wonderful!” she said as she slipped the needle into my vein. “It added up to over $2,000!” I volunteered. She gasped. “Oh, my gosh!” I sheepishly told her that I had burst into tears when a friend brought me the gift cards along with more than a dozen Christmas cards filled with wonderful notes. “I can’t believe they gave me this much money!”
“You know,” she responded, “that gift says a lot about you. Your friends are returning the love you have already given to them.” I nodded tearfully as she put a band-aid on my arm.
As I walked out of the room, the man said to me, “How did it go?” “Fine,” I responded and stopped in front of him.
“Do you have cancer?” he asked softly. I nodded my head. “What kind?”
“I have multiple myeloma. It’s a form of blood cancer, and it is incurable. It’s under control for now, but this blood draw will show if I have to start chemo again. If I do, it will be hard because I have to take care of my husband.”
He nodded; his eyes were soft and gentle. “My wife is my caretaker, too. I don’t have my license anymore, so she has to drive me everywhere. It’s really hard on the wife, isn’t it?” I nodded. He went on, “I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and doctor said I had 6-8 months to live.” He grinned. “That was six and a half years ago.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” I said. We spoke a little longer, and then I turned to leave. “Good luck,” I said. He answered, “There’s no luck about it. It’s all about the good Lord. “
I nodded and my voice cracked as I said, “I’ve learned that I live in the unshakable kingdom of God. No matter what happens I am safe. And I’ve also learned that life is all about being and having friends. Thanks for being my friend today.”
He smiled and nodded as I walked out into the sunshine.