CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith For the Years of Winter…
It’s my cancer anniversary, the day my first oncologist said I’d be dead “in a year or two.” That was 26 years ago. I’m a little reluctant to mention this, because not everyone gets so many bonus years. I’m thankful, though, for my bonus years, and so I share again what I posted on this date 4 years ago. I have updated “22” to “26.”
From I Kings 19:11-13, “…after the fire, a still small voice.”
Some people thought Becky and I were having an affair. It made sense. There were plenty of signs. We spent a lot of time together. She was pretty and I was needy. We acted silly in each other’s presence. When she touched me I trembled.
It’s hard, though, to have an affair with someone who makes you throw up every time you see her.
I trembled when she touched me because she always had an IV needle in her hand.
Becky was the head nurse in the chemo room, before the better anti-nausea meds were developed. When Helen did chemo a dozen years after mine, she sat there with the chemo dripping in and ate lunch. When I did chemo, I lost lunch. Chemo can still cause nausea, even with the modern meds, but in 1990, you “called Ralph on the big white phone” EVERY time. So whenever I walked into the chemo room and saw Becky, I had to run to the rest room and throw up. It’s called “anticipatory nausea.” I knew that when that pretty woman in the white dress touched me, I’d be tossing my cookies, so I just went ahead and got it over with.
The main reason people thought Becky and I had something going on was that we whispered to each other a lot.
Becky and I had a lot to whisper about because I was the cancer center’s hitman. Whenever a patient didn’t cooperate, a doctor or nurse would give me a contract on him or her. They couldn’t do it directly. That would probably be unethical. But they could say in my presence, “Brock hasn’t showed up for his treatments. I wonder where he is…” Or, “There’s an empty chair beside that woman over there. She looks like she needs to talk…” Or “That mother seems to be having a harder time with her son’s cancer than he is…” They knew that sometimes a fellow patient can get through to a cancer person in a way that medical staff can’t.
All this started 26 years ago today, when the pale oncologist showed up and told me I had “it.” A couple of days before they had taken me into the operating room at midnight and cut me open from Los Angeles to Boston, looking for the source of the pain. Cancer never occurred to me. Nobody in my large extended family had ever had cancer. I ate right. I ran long distances, including 26 miles 385 yards at one time. I was a preacher, for God’s sake! We don’t get sick; we minister to other people who get sick. But cancer it was. My pale oncologist gave me to understand that I would be dead “in a year or two.” That was 26 years ago today, the day after my birthday. Under the circumstances, I feel pretty good.
When Becky asked me to officiate at her wedding, I said, “Don’t wear a white dress.”
After the wedding, we hugged, and cried a little. She thanked me for doing the service. I thanked her for keeping me alive. People were watching, so we whispered.
I wrote more extensively about this in NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, published in two editions by AndrewsMcMeel, with audio by HarperAudio and in Czech and Japanese translations.