This week's Country Roads is an unanticipated sequel to last week's. I closed last week's column with, "I wonder what I'll learn in the next 45 years give or take a few years?"
That column was sent to newspapers on Fri., Jan. 18. I have learned a great deal since.
A bit of background: in late November my wife, Cindy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was stage one, detected early. A Dec.11 lumpectomy removed the tumor and subsequent tests revealed that the cancer had not spread to surrounding tissue or to the lymph nodes. Cindy's prognosis was very positive.
She went through the fast-track radiation process and began chemotherapy on Fri., Jan. 11.
She felt fine over the weekend but when I arrived home Monday evening, Jan. 14, I found Cindy lying on the sofa, exhausted. This is a normal side effect of chemo so we were not alarmed but she became more fatigued as the week went on.
At 3 a.m. Sun., Jan. 20, Cindy awakened extremely ill. A new prescription from the on-call doctor controlled that problem but later in the day she developed a stomach pain. Another call to the on-call doctor and another pill didn't help. The pain grew worse.
Around 5:30 p.m. Cindy finally agreed to go to the emergency room. She checked in at ER around 6 p.m. in intense stomach pain. Pain medication failed. A cat scan revealed that she was filled with an infection as a result of her immune system having been attacked by the chemo treatment.
She was taken to ICU and when they allowed me in the room she was being filled with antibiotics and other fluids. I had been up since 3 a.m. that day and at 11:15 p.m. Cindy told me to go home and get some sleep.
I asked the nurses if that was wise. They assured me it was and that if there was a problem they would call. I kissed my wife good-bye, promised I would be back in the morning and went home, promptly falling asleep.
At 3 a.m. an ICU nurse called and said Cindy had taken a turn for the worse and that I should get to the hospital right away. My son and I rushed to the hospital, arriving at approximately 3:35 a.m.
Upon arrival we were told that Cindy's chances of survival were slim. The infection was shutting down her organs. A few minutes later her heart stopped and defibrillation efforts were unsuccessful. Dazed, confused and hurting like never before, I gave permission to discontinue resuscitation efforts.
Ten hours after arriving at ER, my Cindy was gone.
In the hours and days that followed, I have learned many powerful lessons. Among them
A loving family is a gift from God. By 10 a.m. Monday my mother, three brothers, a sister and a sister-in-law were at my house to support my children and me. Cindy's sisters and their husbands came as soon as they could, too. My youngest sister quickly flew in from Orlando.
One doesn't realize how many friends he has until a time like this. I was at the same time humbled and uplifted by the hundreds of friends, neighbors and relatives who came to the visitation and funeral, telephoned, came to our door with food and hugs, sent electronic messages, cards
The value of a loving church family is immeasurable. Our pastor and congregation have surrounded us with loving support, tearful hugs and ready assistance. In his popular gospel song, "The Family of God," Bill Gaither wrote, "When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, and rejoice in each victory in this family so dear."
God answers prayer. Since Cindy's diagnosis I had been praying for her complete healing. Though I had another idea of how this should happen, God has completely healed my sweetheart and today she is in perfect health in heaven.
God answers prayer, part two -- Awaking in the wee hours each day last week I attempted to pray but couldn't. Finally I simply asked God to give me the strength to get through the day. He has.
Last week I asked," I wonder what I'll learn in the next 45 years?" I have learned a great deal already.