Coping With Cancer: Out of Sight

By Margaret Nyman

October 29, 2009

Last night had me battling worry over our immediate future. Each day seems to bring a new problem for which I don’t have an answer. For example, today Nate’s hand began having blips of weakness when it would go limp for an instant and then recoup. Because of this, he spilled (onto himself) one glass of water, a whole cup of coffee (lukewarm) and his dinner plate. Hospice is wonderful in their knowledge, experience and willingness to teach me what to do, and our kids are eager to help. But during the night, as I lie alone in bed, the heavy-handed truth is that I’m the one running the show. Although I didn’t want it this way, all the decisions have become mine.

In the daylight I don’t doubt God will point to answers for every new issue that arises and that this will continue unendingly. During the night, however, I worry, hanging onto this truth by my fingernails.

This afternoon I needed encouragement from God, because tears seemed to continually wiggle just behind my eyes. Walking Jack the four blocks to the beach would help, I was sure, since getting a look at that wide horizon and meandering along the wave line has always been calming. I checked to be sure the boys would watch over Nate, then leashed the dog and headed out.

All summer we’d walked to the beach in flip-flops, kicking them off at the base of a small dune on the way to the water. Today it was socks and shoes. I missed the feel of sand between my toes, and as I climbed the dune, I thought of my favorite sandals, a gift from a good friend. They came from J. Crew, a place I never shopped, and were navy blue with “straps” of white and blue seersucker. The part between the toes was hot pink, and they were oh-so-comfy.

In a lifetime of coming to this same beach, I’d never lost a sandal. But last summer I’d returned to the base of the dune one day, and my beloved J. Crew sandals had been missing. I looked everywhere that day, but they weren’t to be found. It was a disappointment, and I credited some creative middle school kid with tossing them into the woods or the nearby creek as a prank.

Today, as I battled worry about what was ahead, my eye caught something bright in the sand. It was a dot of pink, not a natural color at the beach. I bent over to get a better look and got a shock. Peeking out from under the sand was the between-the-toe piece of a flip-flop. Could it be?

I dug around it and lifted out a navy sandal from J. Crew with seersucker straps, twisted and dirty, but definitely mine. Those wiggly tears spilled over, and I talked out loud to God, stunned by this unusual encouragement. “You did it, God! I can hardly believe it! Thank you, thank you!” God had given me a gift on the exact day I needed it.

Digging in that same area with the hope of finding the other flip-flop, I bumped into it several feet away under eight inches of sand. There was no explainable reason for finding these sandals today except that God saw my need for a lift and decided to do something special. It was as if he said, “Quit hanging on by your fingernails, because I’m hanging on to you.”

On my frequent trips to the beach during the last nine weeks, I’d unknowingly been stepping over my flip-flops again and again, buried in the sand beneath my footsteps. They’d been there all along; I just didn’t know it, because I couldn’t see them.

God had used an object lesson to make his point. When I’d been feeling alone and burdened with worry during the night, he’d been hidden from sight (just like the sandals). But in reality, he’d been there all along.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places so that you may know that it is I. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.”

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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