Coping With Cancer: It’s Good to Be Home

By Margaret Nyman

October 2, 2009

We are astounded by the loving care lavished on us over the last 10 days by family, friends, neighbors and a few total strangers. The impact is profound when we hear of groups coming together to pray for us, or when another person says they’ve been praying every hour of the day. We just can’t get over it.

Our mailbox is full of encouraging words, CDs, uplifting poems, even gift cards. One envelope contained a large check directed toward the travel expenses of our children as they make their way home: $700 for seven children. We are speechless.

Today as we drove to Chicago from Michigan, we enjoyed the company of Nate’s brother, Ken, who is staying with us for a while. The two of them have a long, positive history, and Ken’s arrival yesterday gave us all a boost.

After several months of not seeing his only sibling, Ken wept as he hugged Nate, who comforted him in his mix of grief and love by saying, “Its OK, Ken. Take all the time you need.” Nate’s dramatic weight loss was excruciating for Ken to see.

Today was not easy for our patient. He was injected with a long tube of radioactive dye at 10:15, then underwent radiation #4 at 11:00, followed by a full body bone scan that was supposed to take place at 2:00 but didn’t kick off until 3:20. Not having expected such delay, we hadn’t packed his pain medication. It ran out when he was on the table under the massive scan camera, and his agony spanned the better part of that hour.

After it was over, the staff kindly found him two bags of ice for his back pain, and we hustled him into the wheelchair and off to the car for the long ride home in rush-hour traffic. Although Ken and I were worn out, Nate was worn out times 10. Yet as we motored toward Michigan, he spent nearly 40 minutes in several business phone conversations, trying to put out fires and give legal counsel to those calling his cell phone who didn’t know of his cancer. Revealing the circumstances would have ended the calls, but Nate didn’t tip his hand.

Arriving home, the intoxicating aroma of pot roast and potatoes welcomed us. Just as meaningful were the vacuum lines in the carpet and the scent of pumpkin spice candles. Our son Nelson had built a fire on this cold, rainy evening, and the scene whispered, “You’re home now. All is well.”

But the best was yet to come when the front door opened and in walked our daughter Linnea, her husband Adam and their year-old little girl Skylar, all the way from Florida. We shared dinner in the living room because Nate’s back can no longer tolerate a regular chair, and then he and I climbed the stairs to our bedroom. Once he was settled in for the night, I read aloud from the e-mails and snail mail that had arrived in our absence. As he drifted off to sleep, the following e-mail sentence hung in the air:

“We think we know what roads there are to travel, but God can lead us even when there are no paths.”

Today God led us along a path we didn’t want to follow, but the way was dotted with blessings: praying friends, a mailbox full of goodies, a brother pushing Nate’s wheelchair, two bags of ice for pain, a stocked freezer, a clean house, a crackling fire, our grandbaby and her parents, and a road that led back home.
Guest contributor Margaret Nyman takes us step by step through the 42 days after her husband Nate, a patient at Rush, 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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