Last night I was passing time with a computer game while John watched a television show that's one of his favorites but not of interest to me. I was feeling blue, apprehensive about my second chemo treatment coming up, and also suffering from cabin fever, since my suppressed immune system makes it unsafe for me to get out much. Basically, I was having a little private pity party so I decided to check Facebook, which usually cheers me up. Alas, there I was greeted by photos of my daughter and granddaughter enjoying a week at the beach with her other grandparents, instead of us. So I piled jealousy on top of my pity. I tried to be happy for them but . Desperate for a way to crawl out of this black hole, I flipped to my email only to find a message that snapped me back to reality so hard I still have whiplash. One of my first cousins has been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. It is inoperable and far advanced. Still, they are starting her on chemotherapy in hopes it will lessen the pain. Becky is younger than I am by about five years. She, too, has adult children and two or three grandchildren. She is a strong-hearted Christian believer and I'm told she is facing the inevitable with peace, bravery and even a sense of humor. I would have expected nothing less of a daughter of my mother's youngest brother, a retired pastor.
Becky is the third oldest of Uncle Mark's seven children. He lost their mother to breast cancer 20 years ago. His second wife just died three months ago from liver cancer. Now Becky. How much loss can one man endure? Yet he is bravely soldiering on, his faith never stronger. Hearing of their strength and grace made me feel ashamed for every time I have cried or complained about my own illness. It put everything in proper perspective. At least my cancer was stage two and treatable. Breasts can be removed and my body can do without them. Not so Becky's pancreas. Doctors say I should survive 20 years or more. Becky may have, at most, a few months. God, why her and not me? Just then my cell phone rang and I was delighted to hear the voice of my dear friend Beth. I had not heard from her since she left Florida for the summer over a month ago. She said that she and her husband Lloyd had been praying for me every day and wondered how I was doing. It was a relief to tell them that I am much better and even the chemo is going well. I thanked Beth for her concern and asked her to add Becky to their prayer list. It turns out they know my Uncle Mark and were glad to learn of his troubles. We talked about all sorts of things and when we finally said goodbye my pouty mood was completely gone. I felt blessed and loved, and all I wanted to do was pass it on. Immediately, I wrote Becky a letter of encouragement and today I mailed it inside a beautiful Thomas Kincaid card. I have received so many cards and letters encouraging me in the last few months. I've kept every one and I still reread them often. I also keep every letter or email I receive from readers of my column and savor every one, pro or con. God bless you all for caring. Nothing cheers the soul like a call from a friend or good old snail mail sent with love.