One of my mentors was a man named Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. Charlie had great impact on my life, as he did thousands of others. One of his favorite sayings was, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read." I’ve read many books in five years, but my life has been changed the most by the people I’ve met, many of whom crossed my path through this arduous cancer battle with my wife. Gail and I both feel that our lives have been so enriched by other cancer patients we’ve met, the nurses and caregivers, doctors, administrative helpers, and people across the world who have encouraged and uplifted us. Our lives are indeed not the same.
I’ll never forget Gail’s first treatment. Receiving your first chemotherapy infusion is something akin to Chinese torture. It’s not actually too physically painful, at least that is what Gail says, but it is almost mentally overwhelming. The full force of the statement, “I have cancer,” lands upon your spirit like Thor’s Hammer. So, we were all there, Gail, our daughters, and myself. The first nurse was tall, thin, and full of life. She was “inviting herself” to the party in Gail’s chemo-cubicle, with one funny line after another. She first asked Gail about her situation and how she got there. Gail told her that her cancer was pancreatic and serious, to which she placed her hand on her hip, and said, “Gail! What the hell?” Perhaps for some folks this would be over the top, but for our family, it was a breath of fresh air. I’m sure our laughter was heard throughout the infusion area. This nurse was the first in a long line of nurses who have helped make this process bearable. They are angels that can change the “normal” atmosphere that exists in this kind of situation, to one that is upbeat and helpful. We are being changed by “the people we meet.” In fact, one of the home health nurses has become like a daughter to us. She is a “Gail’s Girl,” and we’ve come to love her.
Cancer cannot keep one from caring for new friends and receiving care from other new friends. It simply cannot – unless you let it. These relationships, no matter why they were formed, are a tremendous blessing.
I suppose anyone who has experienced cancer, especially those who receive chemotherapy, become part of “the club nobody wants to join.” But, the invitation comes, and unfortunately, it cannot be turned down. We have made a dozen or so new friends whom we see, “at the party,” every two weeks. Though this phenomenon does not happen with every new patient we meet, for some, a bond forms quickly.
There is a delightful couple with whom we’ve become good friends. As always, our daughters and Gail’s sisters were talking and laughing in our pod. We were discussing a “Pancreatic Cancer walk” that had recently taken place at the local high school. We found out that a team had formed from our church that raised funds in honor of Gail through the walk. A wonderful lady walked across the hall to our pod. She had a sparkle in her eyes and immediately set the tone for what was to become our new friendship. She said something like, “I know I shouldn’t do this, but I was eves dropping on your discussion and I am wondering if you were part of the walk at CV?” We explained that we were not, but that some of our friends from church had walked on Gail’s behalf. She then asked Gail if she was a pastor’s wife. When Gail confirmed that fact, she started telling us of all the members of our church who frequented her gift shop, and that she had been praying for us for some time. She described her husband's illness and treatment, and, eventually made her way back across the hall.
When Gail’s treatment was completed, we walked across the hall and introduced ourselves to her husband. Within a few minutes, he got up from his bed, rolled his I.V. device across the room, and began to weep while hugging Gail with all his might. “It’s so good to meet someone who knows how this feels.” We look forward to seeing this couple every two weeks and have enjoyed seeing them in our church as well. He always wears a Hawaiian shirt to chemo. This shirt is indicative of his upbeat, humorous personality. His progress has been nothing short of a miracle. Their signature statement about fighting cancer is, “It’s all about your attitude and prayer.” They would be correct. Thank you Lord, for letting us meet H & L.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians, chapter one. “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you, patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” These Scripture verses are true my friends. We all suffer one way or another, we can all receive comfort from Jesus through His followers, and, we must all pass this comfort along to the many wonderful people God brings across our path.
Charlie was right. It is the people you meet, who change and enrich your life. And nothing, not even cancer, can stop us from enriching and being enriched by the people God brings across our paths. There are many more who have blessed our lives in the midst of a painful situation. Because of it, “our comfort abounds!” It is funny to me how being placed into a difficult situation with others can draw people together like a magnet. It is also sad that the same situation can cause others to treat one another with contempt. I think we choose which direction we go. I am so glad that God has given Gail and I the grace to enjoy the lives of others in the midst of our difficulties.