Coping With Cancer: It’s Raining

By Margaret Nyman

October 9, 2009

Today as we headed for radiation #9, our son Klaus was at the wheel. Torrents of rain accompanied us the entire 80 miles, but I was able to relax in the back seat for a change.

Earlier in the morning, as Nate and I gradually came awake, we did our daily weather check by looking out the bedroom windows. Six tall, narrow windows make up our headboard, and while still lying down, we can look up through the leaves to the sky, as if we were sleeping in a tree fort.

“Looks like more rain,” Nate said. We could hear the pitter patter (pound and splatter) on the roof. As we lay there holding hands and listening to the rain, Nate quietly said, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

I didn’t respond, waiting for his further thoughts. Finally, when he did speak, I could tell he’d been asking the “why question.”

“The reason I got cancer doesn’t really matter. It’s God’s will, and he knows best.” Although I felt my tears beginning to sting again, he seemed stoic and calm. His statement might have been an important turning point in his thinking.

Those quiet early-morning moments wedged between nourishing sleep and tiring medical activity are becoming more valuable every day. Nate’s stamina decreases after each radiation treatment, and life has developed into a tightrope walk between too much pain and too much sleep.

I’m thankful for two on-line mentors who have repeatedly told me, “Cherish every conscious minute before he wants to sleep all the time.” These women, whom I’ve known for years, have not only been through terminal cancer with their husbands, they’ve been through lightning-fast pancreatic cancer with them.

In the last 24 hours, Nate has been awake for only five of them. The sleepy days these women have described are almost here.

After our radiation appointment, as Klaus drove us home, he said to his dad, “I’ll bet you’re really ready for a nap.”

“You’re not kidding,” Nate replied, his passenger seat all the way back and his eyes pinched closed.

Once back at the cottage, he walked in the door and straight upstairs, skipping lunch in the process. The rain was still pounding on the roof as the two of us climbed back into bed. Outside the windows it was dark and stormy …  a good day for a long nap.

Guest contributor Margaret Nyman takes us step by step through the 42 days after her husband Nate, a patient at Rush University Medical Center, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Read more of her posts by visiting the Coping With Cancer section or subscribing to the RSS feed. Nyman’s personal blog is at

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