Coping With Cancer: Radiation Treatment #1

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.

Chuckling (9/29/09)

Nate Nyman

This morning arrived with wild wind and spit-like rain. It was still dark as we loaded the van and climbed in with our coffees, headed for Nate’s first radiation treatment at Rush. Normally I would have been behind the wheel for the 85-mile trip from Michigan to Chicago, but our son Nelson wanted to share this experience with us and kindly took my place.

He’d hurried to get to us from his home in Tennessee the minute he learned of the cancer, to help in any way he could.

As we sped along, Nate riding shotgun and me in back, I observed father and son. They conversed steadily and even chuckled together, a sound that washed over me like a balm. There hasn’t been too much levity at our house recently.

Suddenly Nelson braked and pulled sharply onto the shoulder. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Look behind us,” he said.

Pulling up close was a police car, bubble gum lights flashing. My heart sank, because I’d just told Nelson they’d raised the speed limit, which proved inaccurate for this section of highway. I wished I’d been driving and could have taken the ticket, despite his record being clean and mine being, uh, dirty.

After scowling and quizzing Nelson about his speed, the officer went back to his car, eventually returning with license and ticket. “You have a total disregard for everything,” he said. “I’m giving you a warning.”

As we merged back onto the expressway, we were all chuckling about Nelson’s supposed “disregard” for not just traffic rules but for absolutely “everything.” And laughter turned to amazement when we talked about the gift of a warning instead of the penalty of a ticket. All of us saw it as one more kindness from God. “Whatever is good … comes down to us from God our Father.” (James 1:17a)

We arrived on time for radiation treatment #1, a breeze for Nate. No claustrophobic tube to slide into and no pain in the treatment process. A friendly tech named Kevin announced, “Now we’re going to Grant Park,” as pictures of Chicago’s beautiful lakefront came into view during his “zapping.”

Nate returned to the lobby saying, “So far, so good.”

Tomorrow we repeat the process. In the next few days his skin will redden at the three radiation sites and then feel sunburned, possibly blistering after that. “But with our magic creams,” Kevin assured us, “we’ll make it easy.” We trust him and hope we’re getting the full truth.

Driving home while eating Subway sandwiches, we watched for speed limit signs. Nate was tired but talkative, and as we rounded the bottom of the lake headed for Michigan, all three of us agreed it had been a very good day.

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