Today was an especially tough day for our family. My wife, Rachel, underwent a double mastectomy with latissimus reconstruction, and the whole experience has been draining to say the least. Literally. She has two drains that are sticking out of her back, oozing blood into two small bulbs that have to be emptied what seems like every two hours. She’s in a fair amount of pain, but remarkably upbeat. She looked at me not too long ago, smiled, and said, “I have to be completely crazy.”
I think the hardest part of the day, other than sitting beside her now knowing I can do nothing to help but pray and be quiet, was watching the nursing staff take her away at 7:30 this morning. I stood at the end of a white hallway as she rolled out of my line of sight, feeling as though a part of me were going with her. It was as helpless as I’ve ever felt.
It reminded me of a story in the Bible. Jesus is talking to his followers, and he tells them that his mission is going to take him places they can’t go. Peter, the loudmouth one, the one who was fierce and passionate, blurts out: “Shut your mouth, Lord. Wherever you go, I’m goin’.”
Okay – that may not be a literal translation, but you get the drift.
Jesus turns to Peter and basically says: “No, Peter, where I’m going, you can’t follow. Not now, anyway. But one day, you will.”
As Rachel rolled away from me, into surgery, into a future of a radically reshaped body, into a life vastly different than the one we’d known prior to the strike of cancer and the threat of cancer, it was just as Jesus said: where she was going, I couldn’t follow. I’m along for the ride, but I’m not the one experiencing it, and today, for the first time, I realized how lonely and frightening that must be for her. She is courage. She is bravery. She is a survivor.
For any of you who have been touched by the Big C, know this: whether it’s you or a spouse or a child or a loved one or a friend, they go on the journey by themselves but not alone. We may not be able to go where they’re going, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go as far as we can. And then meet them on the other side.
All the best to those of you who are battling, or are supporting someone who is battling. My prayers, admiration, and empathy are for you.