Coping With Cancer: Bearing Burdens

By Margaret Nyman

September 30, 2009

Rush University Medical Center is located near a labyrinth of superhighway lanes, on/off ramps and directional signs. We’ve made many mistakes trying to find a fool-proof route from our Michigan home but nailed it today, making good time and arriving early for the appointment.

Parking attendants were cheerful, offering to park our car free of charge, a special perk for radiation patients. Inside the front door a warm greeting awaited behind the desk, with Dr. Abrams and his resident standing just beyond that. It was as if we were arriving to a happy social occasion.

Treatment #2 went off without a hitch, after which the nurse gave Nate a quick physical: BP good, pulse good, blood gases good but another five pounds lost in a week, which now totals 44. She suggested we set up a meeting with their nutritionist to design a high-calorie eating plan for Nate. Chocolate pudding, here we come.

During a meeting with our doctors, the last part of today’s appointments, they learned of a fall Nate had had yesterday. He’d lost his balance at home and hit his head hard on a door frame as he landed. To be safe rather than sorry, the doctor recommended a brain scan, completed today if possible. “Just in case there is a small bleed, we need to know,” Dr. Abrams said. “The last thing we want is to add something new to his health burden.”

As the staff worked to set up the scan, Nate and I returned to the radiation waiting room where we met my lawyer-brother Tom and brand new lawyer Rob, for a quick meeting. Tom and Rob had come to remove business pressure from Nate’s mind by learning more about Nate’s legal cases. They are gradually taking them over. My brother and my husband have officed together for 19 years. “You’re a fixture around there,” Tom said, “and everybody really misses you.”

Although I pretended to read a booklet on radiation and nutrition, I enjoyed peeking at these three legal eagles as they put their heads together over accordion folders and pages of notes. Two things happened: (1) a massive burden was transferred from Nate’s shoulders to theirs, and (2) Nate’s pain meds began to wear off, which quickly showed in his pinched expression. At the end of 90 minutes, they closed the books, and we left for the brain scan. Nate’s exhaustion required a wheelchair to get him down the long halls to the imaging center, but in less than an additional hour, the scan was completed. As for results, no news will be good news.

When we arrived home, dinner was waiting. My sister had produced a spaghetti feast, Nate’s favorite. In the freezer, we learned later, were meals to last a long time. Friends had baked and frozen many goodies, lovingly lifting burdens from my shoulders. It had been another day full of blessing and benefit.

Guest contributor Margaret Nyman takes us step by step through the 42 days after her husband Nate was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Follow her posts by subscribing to the Coping With Cancer RSS feed. Nyman’s personal blog is at

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