Coping With Cancer: Still at Work

By Margaret Nyman
(Second in a series)

September 28, 2009: When we arrived in the hospital conference room to receive the shocking news about Nate’s pancreatic cancer last Tuesday, Nate was dressed in a new gray business suit and the red tie I’d given him two weeks before. (Who knew Wal-Mart had such great-looking ties?)

He’d spent the morning fighting for a client in court and had won the case. I thought he looked especially handsome as he stepped into the room. Standing up each time a new doctor entered to introduce himself, Nate reached out for seven handshakes and gave seven greetings. He was in lawyer mode and was definitely the catalyst in the room.

After three hours had passed and all the miserable facts were swirling in our brains, the head doctor said, “You’ve had a terrible afternoon, and I think that’s enough for today. We’ll meet again tomorrow and talk more then.”

Nate took out a Post-it note to write down the time and place, while I dabbed at my eyes with his handkerchief, already soaking wet. The meeting had officially ended, but the doctor had one more thing to say.

“All of us on your medical team had gone over your test records before today. Anticipating meeting you, I expected you would be … well … not in such good condition. Everything I saw in the data said that … well … Actually, I just can’t believe you were at work today … and even in court.”

Nate, only half listening, took it as a compliment. I took it as a portent of difficult days coming quickly. We have traveled through six of those days so far, and I was right. Nate’s pain is escalating. His suits are in the closet. And the lawyer is not at work.

But God is at work, and he is working on our behalf. As we climbed into the car today, there, folded and tucked into the back of the driver’s seat, was a wad of bills. One hundred dollars. Someone knew of our many 200-mile round trips into Chicago from Michigan, and thoughtfully provided a couple of tanks of gas. God’s touch is in the details of our lives, and we feel him very close.

Guest contributor Margaret Nyman takes us step by step through her husband Nate’s 42 days of pancreatic cancer. She’ll describe the shock of discovery, the gathering of their seven children, the unstoppable disease and the emotional days leading up to the moment when he passed away. Her personal blog is at

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