Thursday, September 21, 2017

My Life: Cancer and a Storm God


Image from picjumbo


I'm driving my husband to a chemo treatment in the pouring rain. It's mid-morning and early September, but the road is so drenched in water and fog, the white line on the side of the road is almost invisible. Wind rocks the car, and my fingers grip the wheel so tight they hurt.

But I can't let go. I can only breathe. And pray. Heavenly Father please help me get through this.

In another life, just a few weeks ago, we'd never have left the house in a downpour like this. If the storm hit unexpectedly, I'd have pulled off the road. Waited out the storm. But we have a ten o'clock appointment with a small bag of poison and not going isn't an option.

Ahead is a stretch of road that terrifies me in bad weather. Low in the valley, it collects the fog like a bowl and the water pools on the freeway instead of running off. I'm terrified of hydroplaning and the truck we pass that is turned almost completely around doesn't do anything to ease my fears.

Just before we hit the dreaded spot, the fog lifts enough to make the road visible a few more feet ahead. My windshield wipers catch up with the water, clearing the view, and a calmness settles in my chest. We are going to be okay. The rain drenches us all 25 miles we drive, but we make it in one piece.

Later, when we are done and the sun is elbowing through gray clouds outside the treatment center, my husband tells me he wasn't afraid as we drove.

That's all fine. But he wasn't the one behind the wheel. Remember how you used to drive in stuff like that rain, I think, back when I got to sit in the passenger seat and close my eyes when things got a little scary? I can't close my eyes now. Not anymore.

My husband, ever the Ancient Near Eastern Studies with a Emphasis on the Hebrew Bible graduate, doesn't leave it there. "Did you know that in classical classification, Jehovah was known as a Storm God?"

I didn't.

"There were war gods and fertility gods and any number of other gods, but Jehovah had control over the elements. A Storm God. That is why it was significant when Jesus Christ walked on the water and calmed the seas. He was essentially saying 'I am the Storm God. The God of the elements. I am Jehovah of the Old Testament.'"

My heart lifts a little at this, images born of years of sunday school lessons and seminary. Jesus walking on water, Jesus rebuking the storm. "The master of ocean and earth and skies."

He keeps talking and his voice is breathy and scratchy. Talking this much is hard for him. A side effect of all the procedures done and medicines given to him. "It was like we were going to chemo with the Storm God. I felt comforted and safe. I knew we were going to be okay. I could tell that you were nervous though. I told God, 'I know you can control this water. You have control over all the elements. If it be thy will, please lift the rain a little so she can see.'"

I remember that moment, the easing of the rain, the peace settling inside me.

That evening we realize my husband is almost out of pain medication. It's 4:30 on a Friday and we have no idea which of the sea of doctors we've seen we are supposed to contact for refills. He has spent the afternoon visibly shaking under a mound of blankets. Now he has a fever. If he runs out of medication over the weekend, what will we do then?

I pull out the discharge papers from the hospital he spent twelve days at. Other than when I had my babies, I've never stayed overnight at a hospital. I'm 31 years old. I've never dealt with a serious illness and my 36 year-old husband has never either. Not until cancer. I feel like a frightened teenager again. Someone tell me how to do this. I don't know how. 

I call the family practice doctor, get a recording to call the pharmacy, who then tells me to call the doctor who prescribed the medicine. A doctor I've never met and my husband doesn't know. The pharmacy gives me the number they have for him and tells me to give it a try. I reach the seventh floor of the hospital when I dial the number. The same floor we left a few days ago. They tell me to call the family practice doctor. I call back and wait until I finally get a receptionist. She directs me to call another doctor, The oncologist we saw earlier in the day. So I call the office who does the chemo treatments.

It's almost five.

Jess answers. I don't know him. We've never met. I stumble through my explanation. How we've never done anything like this before. How we don't know what we are doing, and I don't want my husband in even more pain over the weekend.

He tells me he'll check with the doctor. When he comes back he says "If you can be here in thirty minutes, I'll get you the prescription. Here's my personal number. Call it when you get here. The doors may be locked."

I herd my three-year-old to the car, leaving my husband in the bed and my ten-year-old on the couch with a video game. We drive the 25 miles again and get to the treatment center by 5:30. Jess meets me at the office. He gives me the prescription and talks me through the latest chemo symptoms. I know he must have waited for me. He went out of his way. I can't stop thinking about that.

I've been numb for a little while. Too scared to feel too deeply, or maybe just too overwhelmed to think about anything but what has to come next. It's almost dinner time. I haven't made any food. I still need to fill the prescription. My daughter is hungry and tired.

But out over the valley, the sun breaks through the still overcast sky, and a ray of light runs in a straight line to the earth below, a spotlight on the very place I'm headed for. The storm comforted my husband. The light comforts me. I say a prayer of gratitude. Thank you, for Jess.

The woman who rings up the prescription remembers me from the phone. Another pharmacist lets my daughter have a free sucker. I get a text message from my husband. Someone from the ward has brought us dinner.

When the pharmacists ask me how I'm doing, I almost start crying right there. Not because it's so hard or I can't do it anymore, but because Jess waited. Because everyone who helped me on the phone was so kind. Because dinner is waiting at home. And two pharmacists took time to look beyond the prescriptions they were filling.

The fog and rain have lifted just enough for me to see again. I know we are going to be all right. We're being carried in the hands of the Storm God.


15 comments:

  1. *hugs* I loved everything about this post.

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  2. Well, I didn't love the scary driving in the storm or the bag of poison, but I loved your feelings and the writing.

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  3. JoLyn, I'm so sorry that you're going through this storm, but I'm so grateful for sharing your experiences of seeing the light. Love you!!

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  4. Oh JoLyn! I had no idea you guys were going through this. Thank you for sharing this post! You guys will be in our prayers.

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  5. I just love and admire you JoLyn❤ You will experience many tender mercies through this journey. I'll be there for you in a heartbeat my friend!

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  6. Things get better and miracles happen. We have spent the last 10 months going through this with my daughter. I know she could tell you all about miracles. She is battling with breast cancer and has just finished her radiation treatments. My prayers are with you for your husbands recovery. Your blog is very inspiring.

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  7. Your words touched me, and I felt the tears fall over what your family is experiencing. I am sorry. You are stronger than you think you are, and you will find a way through this as you keep turning to God. Hugs!

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  8. Beautiful writing. I was so moved. I have been praying for you since the first day I learned of this. I wish I was your VT again. Keep writing.

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  9. So inspiring, beautiful Storm goddess! Prayers for you and your family.

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  10. Hang in there Jolyn! You are braver than you think. Thanks for sharing your heart in this post. Please tell Jacob we, his former Filipino colleagues and friends from WWC are praying for his recovery. We are praying for you and the rest of the family too! Out God is bigger than the strongest storm.

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  11. Oh JoLyn this is beautiful. You have such a talent with writing. I am sorry you have to go through this storm but you do have a storm God on your side who loves you. Isn't it wonderful to see those small tender mercies in our lives? We are praying for all of you. <3

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  12. What a beautiful and inspiring post. Love to you both. ❤️

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  13. Thanks Jolynn for this amazing story. We know how you feel. Our son had cancer and we had a baby wo only lived for
    6 weeks. I told God that I had never done these things before, also. I asked if I could put my hand in his hand so he could show me the way. And He did! We survived both of these ordeals. Our son beat the cancer, our baby lived for 6 wks.and we know we will be able to raise him in a better time. Keep praying, keep hoping, keep working! Romans 8:28-" All things work together for good to them that love God."

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  14. That was beautiful. I was almost in tears by the end, and I don't cry easily.

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