Excerpt for Three Generations Fight Cancer Together: Lessons Learned on the Journey by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Three Generations

Fight Cancer Together

Lessons Learned on the Journey

Elaine Greydanus Bush

Three Generations Fight Cancer Together: Lessons Learned on the Journey

Copyright 2017 Elaine Greydanus Bush

Published by EA Books Publishing, a division of

Living Parables of Central Florida, Inc. a 501c3

at Smashwords

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including photo copying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher or the author.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan.

Scriptures marked AMP are taken from the AMPLIFIED BIBLE (AMP): Scripture taken fromthe AMPLIFIED® BIBLE, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by the LockmanFoundation Used by Permission. (

Cover photo by Laura Hoeksema. Used by permission.

Author photo by Meredith Mockabee. Used by permission.

ISBN: 978-1-945975-35-6

Smashwords Edition License Notes

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What people are saying about

Three Generations Fight Cancer Together

“This deeply honest story of a real, multigenerational family who experiences the cancer journey of their husband/father/grandfather is essential reading for anyone who has cancer or who loves someone who has cancer. As a palliative care nurse practitioner, I am thankful to have this book of practical pearls to share with my patients and families who face this devastating, potentially faith-shaking diagnosis. It also deeply resonates with my own unspoken challenges when my husband was diagnosed.”

Barbara Opperwall


“Elaine's story is a testimony to love—both to the steadfast, faithful love of God and to the steadfast, faithful love of family, friends, and strangers who embody His presence in this world, particularly during times of trial. With candor and grace she shares both practical wisdom and words of hope for those traveling through the dark valley of cancer.”

Sharon Garlough Brown

Author of the Sensible Shoes Series

“This captivating account of one family's cancer journey will surely build your faith. I am eager to see how God uses this book to encourage those who are facing crises, as well as those who desire to offer them support.”

Tom Mockabee

Past Executive V.P. and Publisher, Zondervan Corporation

“This book is a valuable resource for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer. As the author shares the unexpected journey of her husband’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, readers will be strengthened and encouraged to face their own crippling journey with renewed faith and hope. What I especially appreciate is how she includes stories and letters from her children and grandchildren, revealing how they, too, were affected and challenged by this emotionally draining experience. The stories of how this family came together to offer physical, emotional, and spiritual support are heart-warming. The Scriptures verses and song lyrics the author has chosen to share are poignant and full of promise. Any family facing a cancer diagnosis needs to read this book!”

Crystal Bowman

Award winning and best-selling author of over 100 books for children

“Through an honest and humble account of her journey through the darkness of cancer, Elaine beautifully articulates the importance of choosing. Choosing each day to stay focused on Jesus, allowing Him to renew and infuse us with His joy, hope and peace, oftentimes in unexpected ways.”

Kristen Ward

Daughter of a Breast Cancer Victim

“Powerful! Wonderful writing, clear, precise, and intriguing sweeping the reader into the intense story of a family’s journey. This book provides a guide that will help and inspire others facing their own battles. The stories evoke emotions and reflections for the reader. Elaine’s grandchildren add their thoughts and actions which provide unique encouragement and insights. Three Generations delivers hope to those struggling with life’s concerns and difficulties.”

Susan M. Brems

M.Ed, Retired Teacher

“Another title for this beautiful, heartfelt book might be You are not Alone. Because that is clear from Elaine's words and counsel. As the wife of a cancer patient, she draws on deep reservoirs of faith and grace as she journeys along with Wayne, their children, and grandchildren through the landmines of cancer. Readers whose family members have been affected by cancer will be encouraged, blessed, and nurtured by this warm, wise and Scripture-rich book. Most of all, they will find in Elaine a dear companion who reminds them that they are never by themselves, even on the hardest emotional expeditions of their lives.”

Lorilee Craker

Author of "Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me: What My Favorite Book Taught Me About Grace, Belonging and the Orphan in Us All"; "Money Secrets of the Amish," "Through the Storm" with Lynne Spears and "My Journey to Heaven" with Marv Besteman.

“Elaine touches the heart of a family faced with the anguishing reality of cancer. Through her warm, conversational style, she shares her passionate faith, nurtured since childhood through critical life experiences. Cancer creates ripples. Its radius affects much and many, as I know from my brother’s fight with cancer. Praise God for the amazing ways He works in our lives!”

Fayth Steensma

Sister of a Cancer Sufferer

“Captivating! A compelling narrative of faith and hope. Three generations together weave a tapestry of love and support for one another as they journey with cancer, an unwelcome companion. This book does indeed “bear witness” to the faithfulness of our God and the peace and hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.”

Kathy Richert

Cancer Survivor



Our children, who would not let us travel alone;

Our grandchildren, who loved us with their prayers,

hugs, cards, drawings, and words;

My husband Wayne, who walked through

this fire with courage and grace;

And to our God, who fights for us, we bear witness:

He is faithful!

Dear Reader,

You are not alone. I share our story to assure you of that and in the hope of encouraging you who are unwillingly drafted into this war. Shared stories can help make the battles of life bearable. Knowing I am not the only one who sometimes feels so stunned and inadequate for the task at hand, and hearing how someone else made it, provides ideas and strategies I can use.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016 there were over 1,685,000 people diagnosed with cancer in the United States. For many of them, like our family, the diagnosis is a bombshell with a lot of collateral damage. The word cancer explodes in the heart of the patient. Its sound waves shatter the peace of the family spreading out to stun loved ones and friends, reaching neighbors, acquaintances, and beyond. Our fight began the year my husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Our battle brought us on a marathon through unknown territory.

There was good news: God was with us. He shed light for one step at a time and revealed his love in unexpected and detailed ways. Our children and grandchildren volunteered to join forces with us against the enemy that assaulted Wayne’s body and all of our emotional and spiritual fortresses.

People often ask, “What can I do?” This book offers some answers through the lessons we learned of what was helpful, and how we could help each other. The story is woven with the past, because that is how we became the family who grew stronger during the long conflict.

Our story is not exactly like anyone else’s, but there are similarities. We are ordinary people who have experienced the disappointments, challenges, and joys of life. My prayer is for you, traveling this unexpected journey. Know that God is at work within us and for us, even on the battlefield of cancer.

Trust Him,


We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done. Psalm 78:4

For You I Write

I am writing to you

the one on the singular journey

the one who has stepped off the path

you know who you are

you desperately want to know

has anyone been this way before

you search for flares, flashes of light

scan the horizon for signals, sparks

evidence that you aren’t the first to walk this way

a burning bush takes your breath

woos you off the broad path

and plunks you on a narrow way

others saw the same bush

were curious like you

inquired, began

For you I write

leaving a trail of words

so you know

you are not alone.

Sharon Ruff

Used by permission


Chapter 1: Our World Tips

Chapter 2: Waiting

Chapter 3: Sharing the News: Through Their Eyes

Chapter 4: I Should Have Known

Chapter 5: Unexpected Help

Chapter 6: Grandkids, a Play, and a Hockey Game

Chapter 7: Strange Thankfulness

Chapter 8: Faith Fortified

Chapter 9: Counsel

Chapter 10: Tears

Chapter 11: Thorns

Chapter 12: Phone Calls, the Sparrows, and a Flight

Chapter 13: A Choice Must be Made

Chapter 14: The What Else of Eating, Seeking, Learning, Drawing Closer

Chapter 15: Treatment, Stress Fractures, a Beam of Hope

Chapter 16: Author Season, Another Treatment Plan, Another Act of Obedience

Chapter 17: Lite Brite, Curve Balls, and Boldness

Chapter 18: Celebration, Ambush, and a Gentle Reminder

Chapter 19: A Daughter’s Heart

Chapter 20: Sheepskin Confirmation

Chapter 21: Unexpected News, Envelopes, and Dorm Life

Chapter 22: Lemons and Orange Juice

Chapter 23: A Time for Everything: Enduring and Celebrating

Chapter 24: He Restores my Soul

Chapter 25: Autumn Anguish

Chapter 26: Golf, Gifts, God with Us, Emmanuel

Chapter 27: The News and Knee-Time

Epilogue: Wayne’s Thoughts


Gratitude and Blessings



About the Author

Three Generations

Chapter 1

Our World Tips

In this world you will have trouble . . . . John 16:33

The sleet ticked against the window. It was the end of January, the evening of a winter-gray day in Michigan. Supper dishes were done; we had eaten something though neither of us had felt like it lately. When the phone rang I jumped, tense from waiting.

“Can you get Wayne on an extension? I want to talk to both of you.” The doctor’s voice was flat, heavy.

“It’s Doc. He has news.” Wayne didn’t look at me. He seemed frozen, sensing the report that would change our lives.


The problem had started a month earlier during Christmas week; minor, not worth mentioning. Later, he would tell me it was just an ache, like a pulled muscle. But on New Year’s Eve it persisted and finally three nights later it woke him up and kept him up. As soon as the doctor’s office opened, I called, and they told us to come right in.

In all our years of marriage, I had rarely gone with Wayne to a doctor’s appointment, but something nudged me to go with him this time.

“Doctor would like you to come in,” the nurse called me as I sat in the waiting room. Wayne’s physician had just examined him. I found myself clenching my teeth, a habit I have tried to replace with a deep breath. I put the unread magazines back on the end table.

“I’m concerned this might be a hernia that needs surgery,” he began. I had heard of that. My shoulders dropped, some of the tension released. But then he paused and added, “I’m not sure, so I’m scheduling an ultrasound. That will give us more information.” His eyes had been on Wayne, but then he turned to me, his voice no longer objective, “I love Wayne like a brother; I’ll take good care of him.”

Wayne looked at me; I reached for his hand.

I remember the first time I held Wayne’s hand. It was much younger then, unsullied by the passage of time and hard work. It was only two months after a friend had pointed him out to me as he left the high school cafeteria. “He’s cute, don’t you think? He’s a twin. They look a lot alike.” That’s my earliest memory of seeing Wayne. It wouldn’t be long before I was timing my walk from one class to the next so our paths would cross. Sometimes it meant lingering at my locker, risking the dreaded tardy bell. I disappointed my regular babysitting clients for a Friday night basketball game, willingly choosing to give up added savings for college just to watch him play, and for the few minutes we could chat when he left the locker room headed for his ride home. We were sophomores at Eastern Christian High School in New Jersey.

I wasn’t sure he was as smitten with me as I was with him. He was friendly with everyone, but then in late fall of that year we went on a scavenger hunt. I managed to get on his team. It was a blustery cold evening. My ski jacket had no pockets so I resorted to tucking my freezing hands under my arms. Seeing my awkward efforts Wayne generously offered one of the oversized pockets of his cargo jacket. Delighted, I accepted. He soon slipped his hand into the same pocket and wove his fingers through mine.

By the end of our junior year I wrote in my diary, I don’t know if I’ll marry Wayne Bush, but whoever does will be lucky, he’s one of the nicest people I know. I was the lucky one; years later, I married him.


Two days after the initial doctor visit, Wayne was scheduled for an ultrasound which resulted in a quickly-scheduled CAT scan.

“Looks like serious inflammation, but I’m not sure of the cause. We need more tests. I’ve also called the urologist. You have an appointment in two days. Will you be able to make it?” Was there a choice, a doubt? Fear was beginning to gnaw at our sleep and peace.

The new doctor was professional and efficient. While he examined Wayne, I waited in the hall and tried to muster up a positive attitude. OK, find out what’s wrong and fix it. Lots of people get hernias and doctors know how to deal with them. My mind searched for what else could be wrong in that area, but my limited medical knowledge came up empty. Self-talk quickly proved ineffective; faith regained ground so I prayed: Please, God, give this doctor some wisdom and the answers Wayne needs, and please keep me calm and encouraging. Stop my racing thoughts. I would lift these requests many times in the months ahead.

Finally, the doctor opened the door and waved me in. He sat down, paged through a pile of medical sheets, and began, “It’s not your prostate or . . .” (a list of organs I no longer remember). With each “It’s not” my hope increased. Then the sledge hammer, “. . . but your right kidney is beginning to shut down. I’ll have to insert a stent from the kidney to the bladder and . . .”

“How long will it have to be there?” Wayne interrupted.

“Well, probably while you have chemotherapy.” He paused as he saw our faces. “You understand it’s probably cancer, right?”

No, no we didn’t understand! That word, that awful punch-to-the-belly, take-your-breath-away word had not been uttered. How on earth had we gone from a possible hernia to a dysfunctional kidney to cancer?

He kept talking, “. . . schedule as soon as possible . . . I’ll talk to your doctor, schedule a biopsy….”

We walked to the car. The sun was shining, but the world had changed. Before we pulled out of the parking lot, we sat, stunned. Finally, I touched Wayne’s arm and whispered, “God, help us. Please.”


Have you ever gotten unexpected news that stunned you? How did you react? Where did you find comfort? What helps? Have you ever wanted to pray, but couldn’t find words?.

Chapter 2


I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

January 16, the middle of the month. Biopsy scheduled in three days, meanwhile Wayne was feeling better, no pain. We had told our children, “Dad is having some problems and is having tests.” We tried to shield them from our deepest fears. Wayne was relieved to go off to work for the day: demolition and remodeling, physical work. Something he had begun in retirement. The doctor had said, “Do what you can.” Good advice because we were in that difficult place, on hold, just waiting. The physical work done with one of his best friends, Nels, gave his day some laughter and distractions.

While he was out renovating old rooms, I went to a prison where a Shakespeare Behind Bars class was also doing some restoration, in this case, of broken lives. Six months earlier I had retired from teaching English at Calvin Christian High School. I missed the students, not the paper work, so I began to pursue other interests. A friend had invited me to go to the prison class. In spite of the hour drive each way and the stringent process needed to enter the prison, I found myself drawn to it. Shakespeare Behind Bars is a unique program that offers inmates the opportunity to study Shakespeare, perform his plays, and wrestle with the personal and social issues introduced in the stories.

Dressed in drab blue prison garb, the inmates came into the room pausing to smile and acknowledge each other. My tension melted on the first visit as one by one they greeted me with a warm handshake and, “Hi, my name is___. Glad you’re here.” Eventually there were twenty or more prisoners sitting in a circle with a leader and a few of us visitors. My role was just to be there and be supportive.

The men memorized parts, and their ability to deliver difficult lines with articulation and passion at first startled me, and then became a source of enjoyment. Often, they discussed the motives of the characters. One day the leader asked, “Why did Brutus kill Caesar if Caesar was his friend?”

These men, some incarcerated for years already, were not only wrestling with the characters’ motives. During a pause, one prisoner turned to me and asked why I thought he had joined his friends in an armed robbery when he knew it was wrong. “I’ve had a lot of time in here to wonder about that.”

Startled by all eyes turned to me, I lifted a silent “Help me!” prayer and then reverted to the role of teacher. God brought to mind a high school lesson I had taught. “You, like Brutus, had a choice to make. Think about it: Why do we do what we do . . . any of us?”

“Consider this idea: Our beliefs and values lead to our behavior. It seems likely that your belief in being law-abiding clashed with the behavior your friends demanded. Because you valued your friends and their approval more than you valued the law, you changed your belief and convinced yourself that crime was okay, at least in that situation.”

“Brutus did that as well. He said his love for his country clashed with his love for his friend Caesar because of the choices Caesar made in governing. A choice had to be made. What did he value the most: his friendship or his country?”

“What you believe and value will determine how you live.”

It was quiet for a moment, then he nodded, smiled, “Yeah, what do I value?”

On my ride home I thought, What do I value? My boat was rocking by threats of cancer. I had choices to make. I had chosen to pray, and now I had another choice to make: Call in the troops.


When you become a mom, a new type of love explodes. I still remember holding our first born, Stephanie, in the delivery room. I had longed for her arrival, eager to become a mom, taking all the classes, reading the books. What I was not prepared for was the intensity of protective love that burst in me the moment I held her. I knew I had suddenly turned into a mama bear who would do anything to protect this precious gift. That burst of almost over-whelming, protective love repeated when Meredith, then Jordan, and finally Justin arrived.

Even when Stephanie as an infant kept me walking her for hours—walking, not rocking, not sitting, just walking—at night while Wayne worked late, or when Justin as a one year old wanted to play for three hours in the middle of the night after ear infections woke him up, and I thought, If you can die of sleep deprivation, I may not make it. I loved them beyond anything I could fathom.

It did not diminish much, this protective love, as they became adults. I learned to hold it in check, but it is part of who I am. It gave me a little better understanding of how much God loves each of His children. That instinct made me want to soften the reports we were getting. I was to learn a lot from our kids, when I finally shared the unedited news.


What do you value, believe? How do your values impact the choices you make and the way you live? Have you ever made a choice that violated your values? What happened?

What do you do when you are waiting for possibly difficult news? Do you edit information to your family and friends?

Chapter 3

Sharing the News: Through their Eyes

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

I used to try to teach the idea of perception in school. It is a hard concept for teenagers to wrap their brains around. Truth is, it is hard for adults to understand. How often I have wondered, or more accurately, judged other people with condemning thoughts of: What are they doing? What were they thinking? How can they act like that? Even having taught perception, I can forget that each of us has our own unique load of experiences. Therefore, our own unique prism of memories through which we filter information and which influence our reactions to life.

To help my students get it, I would ask for three volunteers. Three fun-loving performers would come to the front of the class. I whispered instructions to them and one would disappear into the hall. The other two would begin to pantomime two friends talking. Suddenly the third volunteer burst into the room on all fours, barking. One of the friends ran away, and the other went to pet the dog. Why the different reactions? One had been bitten by a dog and perceived danger, and one only knew of friendly pets. Every individual reacts uniquely based on his or her own prism of memories.

I wasn’t sure how our family would deal with this growing threat of cancer. All I could do was pray for them and trust that God would walk with each one of them. What began as Our Journey—Wayne’s and mine—quickly became theirs as well, in spite of my protective love. Once again I had to ask Jesus to give me His way of looking at people. Each one in the family had a unique perception of the situation.

Justin, our youngest, recalls, I remember first thinking something might be more serious when Mom told me that Dad had seen the doctor and was getting more tests to see what was wrong. I remember thinking we usually share prayer requests, but this was different. Mom’s tone of voice was different.

As the days passed and he learned that it could be cancer: I didn’t know how to react. As selfish as this might come out, I was in such an emotionally low place from trying to accept my divorce, I didn’t know how I could handle both blows at that time. I think I denied the thought of how serious cancer is. I have one of the closest families that is so blessed — this isn’t possible. News like this doesn’t happen to our family. If it is cancer, it’ll be treatable.

It is painful for me to read his words. We as a family had grieved deeply when Justin’s marriage of five years had ended. As his mom, I had prayed and watched and often wept as he tried for over a year to save what was so precious to him, and to us. Justin’s faith and grace had ministered to my heart, but I knew the scars he carried and the pain I could not lift. But God, even in this, His grace was evident. I witnessed that in Justin’s life. How I longed to spare him more anguish.

Justin is our youngest, an unexpected addition whose life brought me to my knees and taught me a life-changing lesson. The lesson really started when I was pregnant with Jordan, who is two and half years older than Justin. In my seventh month of pregnancy with Jordan, a seizure in the middle of the night left me unconscious for over three hours.

Wayne called 911 at 2 a.m. and I was taken to the hospital. At 6:30 a.m. I remember hearing my doctor’s voice asking if I could hear him or see him. “I can hear you, but I can’t see you.” For thirty minutes he stayed close by, trying to reassure me. I still remember praying over and over: God, three little ones of yours need me. Please restore my sight.

Finally, shifting light became shapes and gradually visual clarity returned. For three days I lay in a hospital bed waiting for answers, praying. Wayne was holding my hand when the neurologist came in to give us the results of a myriad of tests. Explanation: Not sure. The baby seems fine and there is no sign of a brain tumor—their first guess. They would monitor us and schedule a C-section which seemed the best way to deliver.

I adjusted to taking medication, being less confident of being in control, and relinquishing my driving privileges for a time. When Jordan was delivered healthy and sound, we were over the moon with joy, and I happily settled into the busy life of a mother of three. There were lingering effects. One was a loss of self-confidence, and another one continued to nag me even after almost two years. I was tired and couldn’t seem to ever feel rested.

We had always wanted a big family, but it just did not sound like such a good idea anymore. I had been warned that another seizure during pregnancy or delivery could cause serious problems and possibly even death. So, reluctantly, we had decided to stop with three children. But God had other plans for us and a powerful lesson to teach me.

After months of increasing fatigue and spotty periods, I called my doctor to talk about a tubal ligation. Before the appointment, he wanted me to have a pregnancy test, just routine. Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. his nurse called. “Elaine, you’re pregnant. . . . Did you hear me? Doctor would like you to come in on Monday. . . . Are you there? . . . Are you okay?”

Wayne found me hunched over on the floor in the living room, stifling my sobs, the phone still clenched in my fist. I could hear Stephanie, Meredith, and twenty-two month old Jordan playing in the family room.

“What? What is it?” He sat on the floor and rocked me.

“I’m pregnant! How could I have let this happen? I’m on anti-seizure medication, birth control pills, no prenatal vitamins.”

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” He whispered and held me. “Go upstairs. I’ll keep the kids busy.”

How would I take care of this baby and the other three — if I lived? Would the baby be already impacted by my stupidity? I had been a speaker for Right-to-Life, and I felt like the devil was shaking me by the throat, mocking me: So, what do you say now, you pro-lifer?! Your baby may be handicapped, and you won’t even be around!

The weekend felt like a boxing match I was losing. I was pummeled by fears, regrets, dread of the future. I tried to hide it from the kids, but Stephanie, who had just turned seven, would ask me, “What’s wrong Mom?” I gave weak excuses. Wayne took over and gave me time to wrestle with the demons poking and prodding my faith, my peace, my hope. I wept into my pillow and cried out to God. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep, wallowing in my worries. Wayne felt my anxiety but did not share it. He reassured me that we would get through this together.

Monday afternoon I sat in Dr. B.’s office watching smiling moms in various stages of pregnancy go in for their appointments. Finally, I waited alone, his last patient, probably his most troubled that day. He had been there to help me through the long seizure and safely delivered Jordan. I was counting on him to help me through this.

His calm voice broke through some of my distress. He explained the risks both to the baby and me. He said the heartbeat was strong and I was already sixteen weeks along. He understood my disbelief, guilt, and fears. He also knew I would give my life for this baby. I would not consider abortion. When I left the office an hour later, I thanked God for a Christian doctor who would do all he could for us.

But as I drove home I continued to challenge God: Why did you do this to this little one? —to our family? Where is the joy that there should be for new life? He stopped me in mid-complaint: Elaine, I made this baby. Can you love and care for him . . . for me?

I looked at the passenger seat. No one there I could see, but I had heard the voice, the words, the question. Can I love and care for this baby for you? Of course I will. I said those words aloud, and at that moment, in a twinkling, peace and joy replaced every ugly fear. The burst of mother love that had exploded when Stephanie, Meredith, and Jordan were placed in my arms at birth, happened at that instant and filled every corner of my heart with love for my unborn baby.

It may be difficult to believe, but I can only tell you what I experienced, and it changed me. It was one of the hardest, but dearest lessons, I ever learned. My perception of who God is, how personal He is, how much He loves me, and how involved He is in the details of my life, took on new dimensions from that moment. I was reminded that I am ultimately not in control. Better by far to trust the One who is.

When I got home Wayne noticed the change in me. We gathered the children and told them the happy news. God had made a new life, and He was going to give that life to our family.

I thanked God each morning for creating this child and entrusting him or her to me. I would always include part of Psalm 139 in my prayer: You are creating this little one in my womb, knitting this baby together. I praise you because he is fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. His frame is not hidden from you as you make him in the secret place. You are weaving his unformed body together. All the days of his life are ordained by you and were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

God was creating this new life, and He had created a new attitude in me. It seemed to be evident on my face. I discovered that in August when I was in my seventh month. We took a twelve hour car trip to Camp of the Woods in New York State to meet up with some of my family. As we were packing to come home, a husband and wife from a cabin near us stopped by. “We’ve been watching your family this week. We can’t remember ever seeing a woman with three little ones and expecting another looking so . . . I don’t know . . . joy-filled.” I had to laugh. Only God could do that, change a terror-stricken woman into a joy-filled one.

Justin was born by C-section six weeks later, healthy, delightful; beloved by his father, siblings, and forever-changed mother.


Jordan, a busy lawyer, husband, father, was also sorting through the information I was sharing. He recalls: I remember thinking it was not going to be a big deal. There seemed to be so many other more likely, less serious explanations: a stomach bug, a hernia, an infection or even a benign mass. I did not want to worry too much until we knew there was actually something to worry about. This changed during a phone call with my sister when she commented, “J, I have a bad feeling about this.” That was the first time the possibility of something more serious hit home.

Leah, Jordan’s wife, had already experienced serious health threats in her family. She had walked alongside them and shared her perspective: I remember, to be honest, that I was not very concerned early on. Having gone through the experience of my sister’s heart attack, I felt that if doctors were checking on him and they were doing so many tests that they would figure it out. I didn’t want Mom or Dad B. to go through so much anxiety, so I was just praying the diagnosis and answer/plan would hurry up and get here.

Brad, Meredith’s husband, recalls: Meredith and I had a sense that something was wrong without receiving the news. We knew that you probably had some information that we didn’t and were trying to protect us as any parent/grandparent would do. We’ve known throughout this that you had a right to process information before relaying it on to anyone else, including us. We tried to respect that, but also show our care and concern throughout the process. I think even when we know something is wrong, we have a foundation that sustains us. God has been good to us throughout our lives and given us two sets of parents who modeled faith through all things. That being said, we hadn’t been through anything like this before, so part of our faith is due to the fact that we’ve never had to go to this level of worry and dependence on God. We’ve never truly had to cry out for strength.

After I had texted that it could be cancer: Even in the thought of cancer, we rested in the fact that “God will care for us” and “medicine is incredible.” Again, we were nervous and scared, but we didn’t really go to that dark, dark place.

The shield I had so carefully constructed to protect the family from worrying was disintegrating. We needed them. We needed their prayers, their love, and their presence. I was to learn many lessons on this journey; some I thought I knew, but it’s funny how much better you learn a lesson when it becomes personal. I had to humble myself to ask for prayers, for support.

I wrote in my journal: This week we have been living under the shadow of cancer. Wayne has had many tests in the last ten days. Words like concerned and probably cancer and chemotherapy have rattled our spirits and taken us from bed at 3 in the morning. “But yet . . .” Words from scripture. God is faithful. We have cried out to Him and (finally) asked family and a few close friends to pray for wisdom, peace, and healing. God is good. He has restored some peace, calmed our fears down, reminded us that this is no surprise to Him. Keep our eyes on Jesus.

I had finally texted our children and told them the words we did not want to hear: probably cancer. But I couldn’t help adding: It may not be. We have to wait and see.


Have you ever noticed that your perception of an event is not the same as someone else’s? Have you considered that their past may impact how they see things?

Could you identify with Justin’s reaction—denial –“This can’t be happening to us”? Why is it so hard for us to ask for prayers? What happens when we let someone see we are vulnerable and hurting?

Chapter 4

I Should Have Known

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

January 19 began at 7 a.m. with a biopsy. Then the wait: Monday, Monday night, Tuesday, Tuesday evening, Wednesday, Wednesday evening . . . . We had just finished something for supper when the phone rang. “Can you get Wayne on an extension? I would like to talk to both of you.” The doctor’s tone was somber.

Wayne did not move as I ran for the extension.

“Go ahead, we’re both listening.”

“I got the results of the biopsy. . . . Not what we expected. . . . It is cancer . . . small cell, neuro-endocrine, stage 3, aggressive, in the lymph glands.”

Silence. How do we respond to this? He hesitated, adding, “I’ll make an appointment with the oncologist as soon as possible.”

“Okay.” We tried to breathe. Mind-bending, stomach-twisting fear attacked. We reached for each other and wept.

I knew the family was waiting for news, but it took almost an hour before I could write the text message. Reasons: the letters on my phone were a blur through my tears; I worried that they were putting our grandchildren to bed; I wanted to protect them from this earthquake a little longer; I did not want to admit life had changed, not like this; and I knew they would call, but we couldn’t speak.


I should have known. I should have known from a lifetime of walking in faith. But then again, a cancer diagnosis attacks the mind and the spirit. Thank God He understands and shows up through fractured prayers and sleepless nights. I should have known He would. I should have known He would use people to be His hands and heart to us. I should have trusted more, but He had to quiet my heart enough to see His care and refocus my thoughts. He drew us closer through His Word and prayer, and then used our children to minister to our brokenness. There would be other people in the months ahead, but He began with them. They love Him too. He showed up. They showed up. And what a difference it made. I should have known, but it was okay. I’m not strong. He is.


Wednesday night we got the news. Friday morning Wayne was back in the hospital for a complete body scan to see how far the cancer had spread. I assured the kids we would be fine. They all have busy lives. But when we walked into the hospital lobby, two smiling men were there waiting. Jordan and Justin had taken off from work to sit and wait with me. Hour stretched into hour and despite my urging them to leave, they stayed. This became their habit. The seven: our two daughters, our two sons, our daughter-in-law, our sons-in-law, would consult and decide who would be there for many of the appointments that would fill the next months. I have tried to tell them, but I don’t think they really know, how much that helped.


I shouldn’t have been surprised. God had been working in their lives for many years, maturing them. I remember one of the first times I made a decision to accept that fact. We were driving from Michigan to South Carolina for a vacation. It complicated the plan when Wayne had to work until midnight, so we had found a late flight for him. The boys (teenagers at the time) and I left on time to drive straight to Savannah and pick him up from the airport. Jordan had recently gotten his driver’s license and did some of the driving which he enjoyed and gave me a break.

Somewhere near a large city we got stuck in traffic. After hours of crawling along I really needed a restroom. I told Jordan to pull off the highway even though I knew we were not in an ideal location. He found a small restaurant, pulled over and parked. I told them to lock the doors and I would be right back. Before I could turn to close my door, both boys had jumped out and stood on each side of me. Ignoring my protests they said, “We’ll come with you.” It suddenly dawned on me that they had taken on the mantle of protectors, and it was time to embrace that.

All eyes from the counter people to the men sitting at the small lunch tables turned as we pushed the creaking door open. We smiled, and I asked if I might use their rest room. “No problem,” the man behind the counter replied and nodded in the right direction. The boys, correction—young men of mine—slouched their six foot plus frames against the wall and waited. It was an epiphany for me. Our sons were becoming the men we had prayed they would be.


Those men, our sons, sat with me as the time dragged on while Wayne was having the scan, far past the hour he should have been finished. Wayne had been called in shortly after we arrived in the waiting room at Metro Hospital. Later he told me the delay seemed to involve a computer glitch that would not read his hospital bracelet I.D. When he saw that the technician was getting frustrated, he told her, “I do have my Family Fare Grocery Card, if that will help.” She laughed. Wayne has a knack for that.

Our kids would ask me how Dad and I fell in love. Wayne loves sports, especially golf, has a witty sense of humor, and a passion for music. Me, I love books. I taught English, piano lessons, wrote and led Bible studies and, I admit, I’m a bit on the serious side. Perhaps opposites attract, but it is more than that. First, I was simply drawn to his good looks, especially his smile. When he saw me in the hallways at school, his intense blue eyes lingered; he smiled; and I found myself grinning back. I loved that he could make me laugh, slow down, savor life, and not get so wound up about the next math test.

That’s how it began, and it grew from attraction, to friendship, to love. That love deepened for me as I discovered he was a man of faith, a man of integrity, a man I could trust. The fact that he has continued to make me smile, and even laugh, has always enriched my love.

Once when the kids were in school and he had a day off, he agreed to help me get through my to-do list which included a trip to a big box store. I briskly walked up and down the aisles checking off each item on my list as I found it in the nearly empty store. Meanwhile, he was strolling through the aisles noting the variety of products offered and tuning his ear to the music playing.

My cart was full when I rejoined him. He grinned when he saw me, “Can I have this dance?” Finally, I stopped and listened. It was an old favorite from our first year of marriage. Glancing around and seeing no one, I accepted his offer, and we danced together to Have You Ever Seen the Rain.

I treasure that memory and thought it was unwitnessed until he told me much later, “When we were standing in the checkout lane and you ran for something, an employee came up to me and asked if we were the couple dancing in Aisle Seven. I admitted we were. He said, ‘That was cool.’”

The kids loved that unpredictable side of their dad and remember when they were young, after a supper which included vegetables and fruit (a balanced diet—my thing), he had told them to get any bowl they wanted. When they asked, “For what?” he said, “Dessert of course!” They still love to recall the night they ate ice cream sundaes out of serving bowls, mixing bowls, and even a pan!


How do you give yourself time to grieve and process disappointing news? What abilities do you see in your maturing children? Your adult children? Or other family members? How are they a part of the comfort God sends?

Why do we resist allowing our grown children the chance to nurture and care for us?

Chapter 5

Unexpected Help

Love the Lord your God . . . Love your neighbor as yourself” . . . . “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers.” Luke 10:27-30

Once when I found my five year old granddaughter crying, I lifted her onto my lap and asked her what was wrong. “My heart is black and blue it hurts so much.” Her answer pierced me, painting a picture of her sadness.

An unexpected crisis can feel like getting your heart beaten up. It feels like falling into the hands of robbers. It steals your peace, your health, your security and leaves you feeling battered.

The initial diagnosis spurred me to push aside feelings and make battle plans. But as the days and weeks and months passed with the relentless demands of the disease, I could not ignore that my heart was black and blue from the struggle. Melancholy and depression threatened to move in and make a home in my mind and spirit. I went through stages of grief, anger, and sadness.

I even questioned God’s love at times throwing my doubts, fears, and anger at Him. Why are you letting this happen? Enough already. I know it’s a test, but haven’t we gone through enough tests—shattered dreams, financial losses, grading papers until I fell asleep with the pen sliding off the page leaving a trail of red ink? Life seems so much easier for lots of people. Give us a break!

Pain strips us of subtle dishonesty and leaves raw emotions. I wanted to be strong for Wayne, for the family. But there were times when I was alone, especially in the hours before dawn, when my heart cried out to God in frustration and fear, weary of the struggle and sad. I felt like a reed crushed in the storm. Would God respond to my lack of faith, my anger, my self-pity?

Thank God His love depends on His character, not mine. The mustard seed of faith that made me draw near to Him brought His light into our dark places. At times I felt like Jacob wrestling through the night (Genesis 32:22-32). I would not let God go until He blessed me with some peace. Throughout our long journey, through my struggles, God was faithful. I learned to claim the promises like: A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3). And I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:9b-10).

One way He revealed His love and faithfulness was through a lesson we had to learn that was a key to resources God had provided for us. That key came in an old, familiar story told in the gospel of Luke.

Jesus was often tested by experts trying to make Him look foolish and discredit Him. These incidents are recorded in the Bible. Due to the amazing power of the living Word of God they can reveal timeless insights that speak to our deepest needs today. Luke 10:25-37 is one of the most frequently studied for just that reason. It teaches, among other things, an important lesson to people like me who suffer, but still want to be in control, still want to determine the plan.

In answer to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told the interrogator: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” The expert, probably looking for a loophole, or realizing he could not do that perfectly, asked, “Who is my neighbor?” That question generated the powerful story of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus said there was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a very dangerous but frequently traveled road familiar to His listeners. Jews often traveled back and forth between these two cities. This traveler was jumped by robbers who not only stole his goods, they also beat him and left him near death by the side of the road.

Potential help arrived in the form of two distinguished Jews who came by and saw their fellow countryman lying there, helpless. Each of them thought of a reason not to stop. So the suffering victim remained. I imagine him coming to, barely able to see through swollen eyes, every part of his body aching, crying out in his spirit, God, help me!

Suddenly, he felt gentle hands cleaning his wounds, pouring oil on them, bandaging them. He heard quiet words of encouragement. Perhaps he thought, Dad came. No, that’s not his voice; he must have sent someone to find me, must be someone from town. Can you imagine his shock when he realized his helper was no one he would have expected—a complete stranger, and a Samaritan (a group of people the Jews held in disdain)?

The Jewish traveler could not have been rescued by a kinder, more generous, godly person. What a pity it would have been if he had turned him away because it was not who he thought should have come!

Our journey was like that at times, help coming from unexpected sources. Margaret Feinberg in her wonderful book, Fight Back with Joy, writes eloquently of her battle with cancer and the blessings of people who poured oil on her wounded spirit. She also warns that sometimes it is not from the people you expect to be there.

I needed to learn that. I admit when I asked God for help, I expected certain people to show up in answer to that prayer. When they didn’t, or told me it was too difficult to see Wayne so thin and unlike himself, my first reaction was hurt, even bitter disappointment. Not a good place to be emotionally. Like the seeds of anger, or envy, bitterness can take root and poison a heart.

There had to be a better response. Like the Jewish traveler, we were offered and learned to accept comfort from unexpected sources. I needed to trust my Father more and let go of control and expectations. I needed to make room for grace in all its amazing forms. His provision was so much more gracious than anything I could have imagined.

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