Sunday, September 13, 2015
Thursday night, during dinner Jeff turned his head to the side a little quicker than normal, and grimaced in pain. He slowly moved to the couch and the pain increased. Remembering his back issues years ago he said that it was probably a pinched nerve or muscle spasm. I said something very unsympathetic like " Not right before holiday, no!" and maybe even something about how he holds his phone or checking face book too much, ouch. I got the boys to bed and came back down to see the pain had gotten even worse. Jeff is no stranger to pain these days and this was far past what he had experienced so far. After a long night of friends checking in on him, a doctor, a shot and pills, he was still unable to move because of the pain.
I fell asleep in between pills doses and Alex who was staying the night with us took over. By 5 am Alex drove Jeff to the ER (here it is called the A&E). I got the boys off to school and met them at the hospital. We were all hoping a shot of cortisone would help and we would be home packing towels and swimsuits by the evening. Instead, x-rays and than a CT scan was ordered. A kind doctor named Ian and Jeff's age came back to tell us that he didn't have a pinched nerve or a muscle spasm. The cancer had spread into his spine and had damaged the bone in his neck that hurt so suddenly.
And just like the first time we heard of cancer in Jeff's body, our hearts and minds reeled. Things go cloudy, and slow down. Everything suddenly seems too bright, too loud, too much. Questions and confusion slink into every sentence. We waited for more doctors, more answers. I watched the clock and wondered where each boy was. What letter Ian was writing, what friend Levi was laughing with, if Luke was buying a bacon roll for morning break. I wondered how I would tell these boys doing simple normal things, that things were about to get hard and complex and confusing again. We cried and prayed and Jeff asked me to read
Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." Doctors came and spoke of options. They decided the best thing to do was to admit Jeff, get a handle on the pain, and start the first of five sessions of radio therapy. He was in his new room and the morphine was coursing through his veins as I left to meet the boys from school.
The boys broke in different ways. We have gotten good at crying together. Not hiding or shutting down. We have gotten familiar with grace. To give it to each other when words fail, or the hurt seems too much. We wanted a week away, we wanted more time of normal, of good. We wanted Jeff home right then, smiling, and joking with us.
I reminded them and myself that we don't get to write this story. The pen isn't in our hand but God's. We have to trust that the one who knit Jeff into being also knows how to sustain him. It is funny how little Ian gets it more than I can most days. He knows so little of what is going on in some ways and yet speaks so clearly about it all. He is amazed that Jeff gets to be zapped by lasers and that his bed goes up and down. He knows Jeff is hurting and prays simple prayers asking God to just heal him, to help him not hurt so much. He looks up at me and says, "We all get to die mom. Isn't that cool? We all get to be born and we all get to die." I didn't meet his gaze. "It is okay mom, not yet, not yet, we will get old first." Amen and amen. We are not naive, we know that hard battle has become harder. We have become weaker. But this story will not be written by Jeff, or I, or doctors. It will not even be written by cancer. It will be written by God alone.
Please pray for peace. For Jeff to sleep sweetly and deeply the nights away from us. That we will know what to do next and when to do it. That the radio therapy will beat back the cancer and offer relief. And that we will find joy in the brokenness and hope in the disappointments. Jeff will be in the hospital until this Thursday. As of today the pain seems to be under control and he is sleeping better. If he is stable and the pain is still managable he will get to come home. My mom comes tomorrow afternoon to help again. Jeff's mom comes at the end of the week, and his dad in the next few weeks. The doctors are optimistic about the radio therapy working. We are hopeful also. We also are hoping and believing that all ten of our toes will be in sand and sea together before the year is over. Thank you for sticking with us. The faithfulness of friends and family far away is so humbling. This little village of Wormit is helping and holding us up in so many ways. I will update next week when we know a bit more.
Much love, Becca, Jeff, and the boys