Coping With Cancer: A Day of Losses

By Margaret Nyman

October 15, 2009

Nelson and Hans accompanied us today, a pleasant variation for Nate and me. The wet, stormy highways made me thankful I could ride rather than drive. After two hospital appointments, our plan was to drive the mile to Nate’s office to visit his many friends there.

My sister had arranged for a wheelchair, but once at the curb in front of his office, Nate gathered his strength and wanted to walk his once-daily routine. We slowly entered the lobby, passers-by unaware of the significant event unfolding.

Emotionally charged hugging began before we even got to the elevators, as the security guard rushed from her place behind the counter to throw her arms around Nate. She patted him as if they were the closest of pals, telling us how much she loved him. Nate seemed to love her right back.

Stepping off the elevator on the 13th floor, we walked through the thick glass doors with Nate’s name included on the list of lawyers there. What were his thoughts? Three weeks ago, when he left the office to meet me at the doctor’s appointment that fateful day, he never dreamed he wouldn’t work again. Continue reading

Coping With Cancer: Anniversary

By Margaret Nyman

October 14, 2009

Last night I was tidying up Nate’s nightstand. Next to the half-glass of Gatorade was a rainbow assortment of Post-it notes, his long-term method of staying organized. Most were ready for the trash and none had any interest to me, but I peeled them up for him anyway. Stuck to the tabletop at the bottom there was one that interested me. It said: 11/29/09, 40, carok.

Nate was noting our upcoming anniversary, our fortieth, reminding himself to be prepared. But what about the word on the bottom of his Post-it? I figured it was probably something in Russian. Nate has always studied languages and enjoyed a college minor in Russian. He speaks it fluently and loves practicing his vocabulary. All of us know a smattering of Russian as a result of his consistent practicing on us.

This morning, on the way to radiation #11, I tucked his anniversary Post-it into my purse. As we waited for treatment, I handed it to him.

“Our anniversary,” he said, smiling.

“Yes, but what’s that last word?”

“It’s ‘forty’ in Russian.”

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Lately, we’re holding hands a great deal. Today I studied his hand as I held it in the radiation waiting room. His wedding band has never been off since I slid it on during our ceremony at Moody Church, in 1969. Since that day, he’s always been fully committed to me, protecting, providing, participating. Continue reading

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. Continue reading