Jennifer, my sister-in-law and I are best friends. We’ve been besties for over twenty years. When she got sick five years ago, I was devastated. She endured two years of testing only to be completely frustrated. because the doctors she was seeing “knew there was a carcinoma, but couldn’t find it.” She knew something was wrong. Two years later, in the wake of immense pain in her abdomen, she learned that she had liver cancer. The doctors believed it was metastasized from another type of cancer so they asked Jen at the age of forty-five if she’d ever had a mammogram. She replied “No.” The doctors never asked for that test. It was then when she learned she had stage four breast, pelvic, and liver metastasized cancers.
The family was devastated, but her doctor, Dr. Trumbly, was ready to do whatever he could to make certain that she lived a long life. He has gone above and beyond with every newest treatment known to cure her. Unfortunately, after winning the battle twice, Jennifer is now at the end of a very difficult struggle.
Jennifer is a widow. Her husband Dwight found out that he had stage four colon cancer within the two weeks she was diagnosed. In March 2015, Dwight lost his hard fought battle for life. They have three beautiful children. Brandon is thirteen. Sami is eleven and Laura is ten. The children are exceptionally normal kids considering both their parents have been sick for three years.
Jennifer, Dwight and the kids are all steadfast believers. They love the Lord. As a result of their faithfulness, Jennifer has remained hopeful about her condition and positive towards her children. So much so, that I was afraid she may not fully comprehend the seriousness of her condition. However, last night I had a rare unique opportunity to witness God in motion.
When Jen gets an infection it affects the cancer now growing in her brain. The drugs are ineffective in crossing the blood barrier between the body and the brain. Upon visits for three days I felt that Jennifer’s rapid decline in cognitive ability meant she has another infection. I called Dr. Trumbly immediately and we admitted her in the ER yesterday. It may seem like I am rambling, because most of you already know the situation. She’s been so publicly transparent about her struggle. Hopefully in an effort to motivate other’s into a faithful path. Nonetheless, I promise if you bear with me I will make a point that just might touch your heart too today.
I’m sitting in the emergency room with her and I notice that all the men and women who are there know her. They’re alarmed at her confusion. They begin in unison as if she’s been there a hundred times. They’ve wheeled in the Cat Scans. (She’s completely immobile.) They have the best blood-extracting nurse on the floor in to get some. (She bruises easy.) They’re wheeling and dealing all the while laughing and joking with her. They like her! She’s responding with laughter and joking and cutting up. It was quite a sight to see. She’s comfortable!
When they leave the room, she cries. I stand next to her as her hands cover her eyes. She’s scared, and she lowers them long enough to whisper through her tears, “I need you.” I touch her hand and I tell her that they’re going to find out why she’s so confused. This isn’t the end. I’m trying to smooth it over. Just like the song. It doesn’t work. She knows better. She says, “I’m so mad at you. This is me! Don’t lie to me.” You see, she knows me. We’re best friends. I know her and she knows how I handle difficulty. “It’s okay to hurt,” she says. And I do. Tears fill my eyes, but darn it as long as I’m in public I have a hard time crying! So I don’t let them fall. “You’re too tough!” She hisses. “Come on over to the love side.” And then someone comes in, and her tears are wiped away.
I sit in the chair and listen as if I am watching a heartwarming movie. I’m afraid too. I don’t want to lose her! I don’t know if it’s just an infection. I’m thinking “Oh God. What if this is it?! What do I need to do.” Unfortunately for me, everything I feel/think/process streams on my face. She notices.
The internal doctor comes over to introduce himself to me and asks what I think might be causing it. I told him about the discussion with Trumbly and that the doc thinks she has an infection somewhere. He concurs. I feel better! “So, she’ll get better?” I plead.
“Yes, she probably will in a few days. We’ll get our Jennifer back.” His Jennifer?! Yeah buddy! They’re emotionally invested. I am seeing the first of many good signs “God’s got this.” They decide to admit her.
I met them upstairs and before I got to the room at least twenty nurses and doctors and techs were saying hello to her. She’s commanding attention and doesn’t have a clue what she’s saying or what they’re saying, but they don’t care! One by one; patient, kind and considerate people are saying hello through bright shiny white smiles. They’re happy to see her. That’s the second sign of God. It brings a sense of stillness to her anxiety. She’s beginning to calm down a bit.
Once they took vitals and poked and prodded, we settled in. I wanted to go to this Plano Moms book club I’ve been looking so forward to all month. I was so excited to talk about the book, The Good Girl. I have never ready anything like that. I transgress. Anyway, I tell her I need to go. She won’t have it! She says, “Hey, I haven’t had anything to eat, so order me something.” It’s getting late and they’ve stopped serving food at the hospital so I agree. It’s almost 7 o’clock when I am supposed to be at the Club. I call Scott, (my husband) and tell him I’m not able to go. I need him to get to the kids and make sure they have dinner. He agrees, and I settle in with Jen.
I’m disappointed. I don’t know why?! I feel guilty. I know I am exactly right where I need to be, but part of me is frustrated after a long tumultuous day. I sigh heavily. I sit in the chair and begin to give everyone text updates. I cancel the orders for the next day to transport her to the new residence she was going to. I call the facility owner, I inform the family she will probably be okay and talk to the kids about what is expected of them for the evening. Scott won’t be there until 7 o’clock. Brandon, the oldest kicks into gear and cooks mac and cheese for them. He empties the dishwasher, feeds the dog and makes sure the girls are showered. It’s picture day Wednesday. What a guy! Thirteen and already a fine young man! That’s the third sign of God.
Jen gets her food and calls me over. She says, “I’m mad at you. I miss you.” She cries again. “I never get girl time anymore. I’ve ruined your life!” Now she’s sobbing and can barely ask, “Can you just stay with me?”
“The kids are not ruining my life!” I softly shout. It’s time. I can tell you that I am tough. She knows it. Anyone who knows me knows it. I’ve spent the whole day frustrated and angry about not being able to get things done and feeling so helpless. I don’t know if you know my story but I’ve had a life filled with obstacles of my own. I’ve been raped, and beaten. I’ve been through a terrible accident that took the life of my unborn child. I’ve lived through a fire that took all my belongings and almost my life. I’ve been so poor I haven’t had hot running water. I’ve been homeless. I have witnessed those I love die. I survived ten surgeries of my own. To say I am tough doesn’t measure the reality that little can make me break. But at that moment I broke! I let the tears fall. I grasped her hand and held it in mine and we both sobbed together.
She wipes her eyes and tells me, “If this is it, I want you to be okay. I know it’s the end of my journey.” That’s what she calls it. I find that so faithful don’t you? She never says, “I’m dying,” because she believes she’s passing on to Heaven and that this is not the end. I don’t correct her this time. She hasn’t been able to come to grips with the fact that she’s losing this fight. For a brief moment she’s Jen. She’s clear. She says, “I know I am going to be alright, because I can watch my children from heaven. I have to learn to let go and I’m getting that now.”
I’m crying writing this today. Not because it makes me sad. Oh no, she wouldn’t have that! I’m in tears because she is at peace. She knows she’s headed to Heaven. She knows he’s got her kids by placing them in my hands. I’ve got this! God’s prepared me in the face of all the human unkindness I’ve suffered. He’s kept me protected, and he’s given me joy in the face of the horribleness I had to endure. I’m crying because I know why I stayed strong. Why I never got lost in my own sadness. Why I didn’t take my own life at the low points. He made me strong so I could sit in that very moment and help her tears fall. So I could help her know how much I love her! How valuable her life is. How she threw a pebble and how that rippled a community’s love to grow. I reminded her.
I’m at peace, because we finished crying. Then we reminisced about funny things long past. We talked for hours. She’s still confused, but it was the best few hours I’ve spent in a long time. We had a girl’s night last night. It was EPIC! Something I won’t forget anytime soon. If you ask me about it, I may tear up, but I process these things well, so just expect I’ll be fine. After all, it’s really not about me; it’s all about her. I’m so very relieved that God has worked such miracles in her life, and that she sees them. I’m touched that he chose me to care for those precious children! I’m humbled more than any words can possibly convey to you how restored my faith is in humanity because of the kindness of everyone who has come to know Jennifer. I cannot thank everyone enough on all of our behalf for the generosity, the kindness, the prayers and all the empathy that everyone has shown. I don’t know if the words I write today will be able to convey how thankful the family is that friends and family alike have made such an impact. I will thank you, although I will never really truly feel that is enough. Thank you. The ripples from her pebble have filled our sea. I’ve witnessed God in motion.