Free Write Friday Challenge
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
The news was devastating. How could it possibly be true? What had started out as a simple stomach bug had turned out to be something so much worse.
I was so excited when after years of obesity, the pounds seemed to melt away. After years of failed dieting attempts, I went from a size 22 to a size 14, and I was still losing weight. For the first time in my life, I felt pretty, and now, people were always complimenting me and telling me how pretty I am.
A small whimper escaped from my lips as I fought to maintain my composure. I would much rather have all of that weight back and have people think I’m fat than to hear this news. I was sorry now that I hadn’t asked my husband to come with me to the doctor’s office. After all of the tests they had run, I figured the news wouldn’t be good, that I probably had stomach ulcers that would require surgery. We had talked about it last night, and I’d insisted that he go to work instead of coming to see the doctor with me, because we really needed the money, and would need it even more so if I had to have surgery.
“I’m sorry Melanie,” Dr. Chaffinch said as she leaned forward, and took my hands into hers. “Why don’t you let Jen give your husband a call?”
“No,” I forced out. “No — I’ll be fine. I need to tell him alone. So, what’s the prognosis?”
“I’m afraid it isn’t good,” the doctor replied gently. “It’s already spread to the bile duct and the liver.”
I swallowed hard, trying to rid my throat of the painful lump that was throbbing, and fighting to control the tears that were threatening to spring forth. I looked around the doctor’s office, taking in the dark walnut paneling, with my doctor’s many medical credentials, licenses and awards. I continued with my sweep of the room, taking note of the clock on the wall. Could it be that I had only been here for a total of seven minutes? It seemed like an eternity since I had entered this room. My eyes looked past the clock and settled on the bookshelves loaded not only with medical journals and such, but with many of the great classic novels and books, coming to rest on “A Grief Observed,” by C.S. Lewis. How ironic. Shaking my head, I focused my gaze on the pictures that hung on the wall, of Dr. Chaffinch and her family.
A lone tear slid down my cheek as it suddenly dawned on me that I would never bear Alan’s children. We had only been married for a little over a year, and had just started trying to have a baby. “Oh God,” I silently prayed, “how do I tell Alan that we’ll never have a baby… that we’ll never grow old together?”
“Melanie,” Dr. Chaffinch spoke with concern. “Please, let me call Alan. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone, and I know he would want to be here with you.”
Again, I drew in a deep breath and sighed, shaking my head. “No, please. This is difficult, but I can handle it.” I smiled uncertainly. “After all, how many times have I said, ‘To be absent from the body is to be present from the Lord,’ or ‘To live is Christ; to die is gain?’ Now, it seems I’ll be tested on that very foundation of my life.”
Now, it was Dr. Chaffinch’s turn to look away. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The patient was the one who was supposed to be in tears and in need of comfort, not the doctor. She brushed her tears away, somewhat surprised to see them.
“So, Doc,” I stated flatly, “you still haven’t told me the prognosis.”
Dr. Chaffinch drew in a deep breath and began, “Pancreatic cancer has three stages,” she spoke sadly and softly. The first stage is resectable, and in this stage, the tumor nodules can be removed. The second stage is locally advanced, which means the cancer has spread to areas surrounding the pancreas, such as tissues or blood vessels. The third and final stage of pancreatic carcinoma is metastatic, which means that the cancer resides in multiple organs. Because a tumor can grow in the pancreas for quite a while without any noticeable symptoms, more often than not, when it is discovered, the patient is already in the advanced stages of the disease.”
“It’s in the final stage, isn’t it?” I asked bluntly.
Dr. Chaffinch nodded, still warmly clasping my hands within her own. I sensed that she longed to offer me hope, yet all of the test results made it clear that barring a miracle, there was no hope. “I’m sorry Melanie,” she said softly.
Even though I didn’t feel very brave, I still managed to smile as I worked up the courage to ask, “How much time do you think is left?”
Dr. Chaffinch gulped, then said, “Maybe three to six months if you’re lucky, and I pray you are.”
I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach. “I see,” I responded after several seconds, which felt like a lifetime, had passed. “What about surgery, or chemo and radiation?” I queried.
Dr. Chaffinch shook her head as she responded, “I’m afraid it’s beyond that.”
“Whoa. I see. Will… will it… will it be painful?” I stammered. “Duh! What a stupid question. The pain is what brought me here.”
“It is painful, Melanie, but we can put you on pain meds to combat the pain, so that you can have as much quality time as possible. You’ll also want to contact Hospice as soon as possible, or we can contact them for you if you like, because they will be able to provide you with palliative care.”
I laughed shakily, “Hospice – that’s crazy. I’m only twenty-four years old.” Then, seeing the pained expression on my doctor’s face, I got up from my chair and embraced Dr. Chaffinch, comforting her, as the tears spilled from both of our eyes.
After leaving the doctor’s office, I drove to my favorite spot by the river. Because it was winter, I had the place to myself, as I got out of my car and walked to the river’s edge, sitting on an empty park bench. There, on that bench, with no one else there besides the Lord, I allowed myself to mourn. I cried out loudly to the Lord, seeking His comfort and His peace. For three hours, alone by the river, I poured out my grief for me, my husband and the children we would never have now, and when I was finally spent, I sat there quietly, waiting for the Lord to respond…
And as I sat there quietly, I felt the gentle brush of His Spirit, as He wrapped His arms around me and began to comfort me. “Fear not,” He whispered in the stillness. “From everlasting to everlasting, I am the Lord your God, and I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore, with lovingkindness, I have drawn you. Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will be with you. I will comfort you with My righteous right hand. Just as I was with you before you were born,” He spoke, “so I will be with you when you come home to Me. And just as I am with you, so I will be with Alan. Therefore, fear not,” He gently spoke, “for My love for you is eternal.”
And in that moment, I swear, we were infinite.
Cheryl A. Showers