Coping With Cancer: A Rocky Road

By Margaret Nyman

October 10, 2009

My sister Mary and I love rocks. Beach stones, to be specific, from the shores of Lake Michigan, our childhood hangout. There is no end to the variety of stones that appear on the sand day after day. Each is striking in its beauty, and no two are alike. In our opinion, a pendant made of a beach stone ranks right up there with a “real” jewel.

Mary and I are in our sixties, but we still get that same childhood thrill when we find pretty stones. Handling them is a stress-reducer for sure, and we look for excuses to do so. We’ve glued them on picture frames, mirror frames, candle bases, centerpiece runners, birdhouses, flower pots and clocks. We’ve backed them with magnets for the fridge and have filled crystal bowls with them.

Last week Mary found a new way to use our stones. The morning after we learned of Nate’s pancreatic cancer, I was standing at the kitchen sink, a million miles away in my mind, when I spotted a pink beach stone on the counter. It was the size of a fifty-cent piece and had writing on it: Isaiah 26:3-4.

I knew immediately it must have been Mary’s doing. Here’s what the reference said:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

With my mind in a whirl that day, those verses slowed me down and gave me something constructive to do.

Two days later, a yellow “butterscotch” stone appeared, this one on the bathroom sink. Psalm 16:7-8:

A few days after that, I found a third stone next to our computer. Psalm 9:9-10:

This afternoon I found a fourth gift from the beach, a stunning piece of beach glass, rare because of its large size and aqua color. Beach glass is difficult to find anymore, since so many bottles are now made of plastic. But on this beautiful piece was written another reference, Psalm 40:1:

I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry…”

With her Scripture rocks, Mary has found a way to link earth and heaven, thus helping us sort out the dilemma of having one foot in each place. The stones and beach glass help to pry our attention away from pancreatic cancer and attach it to the one who has the keys to life … and death … the foundational Rock, Jesus Christ.

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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