“Mark, Glenda is going to die.”
Our good friend and home health care nurse Jeri Kraus delivered those painful words to me 24 hours before my wife’s death. Jeri realized how convinced we were that God’s miracle of healing was imminent. Glenda and I felt that real faith would not tolerate fear or doubt, and we would so live in spite of cancer’s worst fury -- as though it would be vanquished at God’s appointed time.
Glenda was young, only 34, when her breast cancer was first discovered. She was still nursing our third child. Although the time after her diagnosis was a nightmare of tears and sleeplessness, she believed with the Lord’s help we could beat the disease. We didn’t have to talk about it much, because I shared that belief 100%.
Her treatment began — the usual mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo and radiation. Those days were just a blur of impressions: a forest of pill bottles sprouting on the counter, endless laundry and child-care arrangements, a succession of doctors with their stethoscopes and monogrammed pockets, speaking what seemed like a foreign language. The one thing that wasn’t a blur was Glenda herself, who worked hard to recover, to put it all quickly behind her and get back to her children, her home, and to me.
After a year of treatment, her returning strength encouraged me and our life resumed the familiar comfort of its old routines, the basketball games, church activities, family dinners, and holidays. I loved Glenda before cancer, but this threat gave my love a new dimension, a new understanding of the precious, fragile gift we had in each other.
But it wasn’t to last. The reprieve ended just 18 months later when the cancer returned in her spine. “I won’t do all that again,” she said. And I agreed. The memory of the debilitating nausea, hair and weight loss, the mouth sores and deep fatigue was too fresh. The top cancer hospital in the world had trained its “big guns” on the disease, but it survived. So we accelerated our use of alternative therapies, juiced pounds of carrots, beets and apples, drank green tea and prayed non-stop, certain that God had given us a rare opportunity to trust Him completely with an actual life and death issue.
Even through increasing, debilitating pain, Glenda believed she would get well and she conducted her life as normally as possible. She didn’t talk much about the relapse to anybody because she didn’t even want it invading her relationships and conversations. But she wasn’t getting better.
I know I’ve probably blocked out a lot of the fear and desperation of that last summer. Either that, or Glenda herself eased the atmosphere with her determination, her fighter spirit. We both believed she would recover up to the very end. A few days before she died, I was adjusting her pillows and she whispered, “Don’t give up on me.” Weeks later, I realized that was the last thing she said to me.