Coping With Cancer: Take Heart

By Margaret Nyman

October 18, 2009

As we readied for a short church service in our living room circle this morning, I thought of the thousands of families readying for church all over the country. We’ve not been to a “real” church since we got the shocking news of Nate’s pancreatic cancer less than a month ago. He’s not been up to going, and we all want to stay with him. I wondered how long it would be before we … or I … went back.

As we cleared our cluttered kitchen counter to set out eggs and toast, we found another Scripture rock tucked next to the microwave. We get to eat in our “church,” so we gobbled down breakfast while our daughter-in-law Katy opened the worship service by reading the rock-verse. For in the day of trouble, He will conceal me in His tabernacle. In the secret place of His tent He will hide me. He will lift me up on a rock.”

These days are an earthquake of trouble, to be sure. How good to know God can and will lift us onto solid ground. After praying, we listened to one of Pastor Colin Smith’s sermon CDs. The subject was love.

Later in the afternoon, I needed some time alone, a rare commodity for any of us in our crowded cottage. I’ve not wanted to leave Nate’s side since the diagnosis, especially lately when he’s kept careful track of whether or not I’m in the room. But while he dozed comfortably in his chair, I found a leash and walked Jack to the beach.

As we paced along the shoreline, a tremendous sadness settled over me like one of those lead aprons the dentist lays on people before taking an x-ray. It felt too heavy to get out from under. Although I’m resigned to Nate’s cancer and the devastation it’s causing in his body, today the whole dilemma seemed extra sad. I wasn’t mad at God. He’s been loving and gentle with us every single day. But the thought of losing our favorite husband, father and grandpa overwhelmed me.

I hadn’t planned on picking up stones today, yet as Jack and I shuffled along, the strangest thing occurred. My eye, following the line of rocks along the edge of the waves, fell on a rock that was shaped like a heart, first one and then another …  and another.  I put each one into my coat pocket, commenting to Jack at how unusual such finds were.

The more hearts I found, the more my spirit lifted. We walked half a mile or so until my pockets were bulging, dictating it was time to turn for home. Spreading out the bounty, I was astounded to find a heart-rock for each member of the family, including our three unborn babies, and especially including Nate. It was as if God was telling me, “I’m not going to let you ‘lose’ Nate. You’ll always know exactly where he is: with Me. In the meantime, remember how much I love you and yours …  times 16!”

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

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