So, did I tell you that I have an amazing wife? I just drove into the cul-de-sac from work and parked in the garage. As I was opening my door, I noticed something in the rear- view mirror. It was Gail standing in the driveway of our neighbor’s home, talking with our neighbor. She worked for a while today, helping young men with drug problems get their lives together, while taking care of their medical needs, and then, when she arrived home, she texted: “Call me when you get a chance. Home now. It’s 3:36. Going to get ready to go for a walk around here unless I hear from you.” Hold that thought.
Monday and Tuesday were difficult days for her. We visited Johns Hopkins for “a second opinion,” more accurately, any possible good news in the way of hope. Johns Hopkins Hospital complex is huge, and though we are familiar with the area, finding the right building was a challenge. Parking was an even greater challenge, so I chose valet. It was well worth it. In fact, if we were at the right valet, it would have cost nothing, but we were one building over, and the stamp from the receptionist at the cancer center did not work for the children’s hospital where we parked. Oh well, life is an adventure.
As with Hershey Medical Center, the folks at Johns Hopkins were wonderful from start to finish. We checked in with the lady at the main reception desk, who directed us to the new patient pancreatic cancer area. This lady not only got Gail enrolled into the system, she then walked us to the waiting area and told us exactly what would happen. We sat for a very short while until another lady came from behind one of the doors and said, “Gail Hamilton.” Before we knew it, this lady was taking Gail’s vital signs and checking on her medications. She was very funny and it sure made the whole process feel better. Then back to the waiting area to wait for the doctor. Within five minutes, the funny lady came out again and escorted us back to examination room “15.” The room was typical. Two chairs, an examination table with the rolled-out white paper across it, a computer monitor, sink, and a few posters on the walls about taking care of yourself. (I always find those amusing, since you are already sick when you’re reading them). There were also the obligatory legal posters that I assume no one reads. She got an extra chair for Andrea who would arrive in a few moments to join Kristin and I with their mother.
Dr. Le came into the room, introduced herself, and then immediately began going through Gail’s records, asking Gail all kinds of medical questions. She was all business. I thought, “I hope she lightens up a little.” Guess what? She did! Once she got through the questions, she examined Gail on the table, walked to the sink and washed her hands, and then turned and looked Gail in the eyes. “What can I do for you?” I thought this was kind of funny, but also a really good question. Jesus often asked this exact question to those who wanted to be healed, even though it was often obvious what they wanted. I’ve always thought it was funny when Jesus asked a man who could not walk what the man wanted Him to do for him. “Duh, heal me so that I can walk.” (I don’t recall anyone answering Jesus quite that way, but they must have been thinking it.)
“What do you want, Gail?” (The following is a paraphrase combination of the doctor’s conversation with Gail, along with some of my thoughts taking place as the conversation is happening.) “Well, I guess what I really want is some good news about my cancer.” Good news about Gail’s cancer has been in short supply these days. And since she was not talking to Jesus, I don’t think Gail expected the doctor to reach out, touch Gail’s abdomen, and heal her. But throw us a bone here please. How bad is it? Bad. The doctor reviewed the CAT scan and confirmed that hers is a bad case of cancer. No good news there. How about miracle cures; are there any on the horizon? No. Pancreatic cancer is very complicated and difficult to treat. The treatment you are presently receiving is the best defense. How about more Clinical Trials? Yes, there several, but none of them are showing much promise yet.
For the next half hour or so, Gail asked questions about getting into clinical trials and how they work at Hopkins. She has already been through one at Hershey that failed miserably. They discussed research in immunotherapy treatments and vaccinations. They talked about how this cancer does its’ dirty work, and how there are literally thousands of combinations of drug treatments that are open for research, making it very difficult and time consuming to find effective treatments. Dr. Le: “The median life span for this disease is nine months. Half of patients live longer, have live shorter lives. Every patient is different. But it does look like you might be responding to this treatment, so keep trying.”
Well, there you have it. “Gail, what you want, I can’t provide.” It wasn’t as bad as the first time we heard these words, but it was kind of like reliving it all over again – Groundhog Day – if you will. I could see the look in Gail’s eyes as her hope drained onto the examination room floor. We asked a few more questions, then, the doctor bid us farewell, at least for now.
Well, Jesus didn’t show up at Johns Hopkins on March 6th in examination room “15.” That is kind of how it felt, but we still never doubted His Presence.
We left the hospital and made the quick trip down to Fells Point, one of our favorite haunts. There, we checked into the hotel and hung out for a couple of hours. Gail and Kristin marveled at the crane across the street, building another shining apartment high-rise. Andrea slept and I hung out in the other room looking out the window as well. That night, we enjoyed an evening with Andrea’s friends, several of whom had helped paint our living and dining room when this process first began, and they also participated in the cycle event fundraiser. The evening was relaxing and brought many laughs. We are so pleased that our daughter has such caring and fun friends.
The next morning, we found out that Kristin had been up much of the night throwing up from food she had eaten the night before. Gail, then must have decided, “I think I’ll join her,” so she started throwing up, except hers is for a different reason. I’ll have to admit my stomach hasn’t been doing well lately either! Woohoo, this is going to be a great day! Well, with the sick party over for the day, we happily went down for breakfast, then drove home.
Did I tell you how amazing my wife is? We got home and off to work she went! She has just been reminded that she is dying of cancer and that there is no cure. She has vomited repeatedly from the chemotherapy treatments. She has helped my daughter with her own brand of illness, and now, off to help young men get their act together. I was depressed and struggling, she was at work serving. Kristin, Gail and I worked that day, and yes, the evening was not the brightest. But God’s mercies are new every morning. Nevertheless, Gail had driven herself to work, taken care of other people who are in their present sad condition by their own choice, and then arrived home to check on her daughter and husband.
Today, we arose and went back to work. Don, a Senior Pastor, Gail, a Nurse Practitioner, and Kristin, a Student Ministries Pastor. And, at 3:36 pm Gail arrived home, bundled up, and walked three miles before her husband arrived home. She then gathered and bagged leaves on the back deck, and now she’s sitting quietly across the room from me eating soup. My wife is amazing.
The Bible tells us that the man who finds a good wife has found a great blessing and that he should treat her well. The Bible would be correct. My wife is amazing and I am blessed beyond description to be married to her. I always tell people, “I married up,” and it is true.