A few days ago we passed the five-year anniversary of our visit with the oncologist in which Laura was diagnosed to have stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Cancer changes everything. And life for us was dramatically changed on that day. In the days following her diagnosis, there were radiation treatments and the start of chemotherapy and being fitted with a back brace (since the cancer had caused massive deterioration of her spine from top to bottom). Soon after that Laura came down with a case of shingles, but unlike most cases of shingles, the pain she experienced was so severe that it caused her to cry out in agony (this went on for several days). We didn’t realize it at the time, but the shingles pain caused serious nerve damage resulting in a condition called “post herpetic neuralgia (PHN).” There’s no cure for PHN, doctors can only prescribe various medications to try to manage the pain. Laura’s been in chronic pain now for almost five years.
Before cancer Laura would shy away from taking any medications, now she’s got almost a dozen that she takes on a daily basis. Before cancer Laura was incredibly fit and active, today she’s happy for the strength to get around the house in her daily routines and sometimes get out of the house for a short walk. Its hard to remember what life was like before cancer. Laura raised our four kids, not an easy task on its own. But when they got older, she worked part time at the local grade school—she loved that, and the kids and fellow teachers loved her. For 27 and ½ years she was an amazing pastor’s wife, serving and caring for others with incredible compassion and faithfulness. She taught in Sunday School and Children’s Church, managed the nursery, oversaw the women’s ministry, took care of the kitchen, and did countless other things that go along with being a part of a local church. If anyone had a need, she was on it. If someone needed a meal, she’d be the first to sign up to take one. She babysat kids. Helped to clean other people’s houses. And she helped people move more times than I can recall. If someone was in the hospital, she was glad to go with me. She’d manage those huge Easter breakfasts and Thanksgiving potlucks, and it was nearly impossible to drag her out of the kitchen. She’s always been that way. Her first inclination has always been to serve others.
The anniversary of a cancer diagnosis is hardly a reason for celebration. But its good to think on the positives. Laura has received great care by the many doctors and nurses we’ve had through her cancer journey. The staff at Kadlec, where she now goes, have been great. They genuinely care and have been proactive in diagnosing and prescribing the necessary cancer treatments. Over the course of five years, we’ve had hundreds of DR appointments and have received hundreds of prescriptions resulting in huge medical costs. We’ve paid out about 1% of that. Kadlec has been great in finding grants to help alleviate the costs associated with our deductible.
So many have prayed for Laura. She and I get messages all the time from people around the US, and even around the world, asking how she is doing and reminding us that they are praying for her. Some might suppose that God hasn’t answered their prayers, since she’s experienced no healing from her various afflictions to this point. But that would be a wrong assumption. Don’t get me wrong, every day is a struggle for her—the countless medications to take and the chronic pain to deal with and the loss of strength and energy day-by-day—but God gives her strength. She seldom complains and has the same servant-minded perspective on life that she’s had ever since I’ve known her. Putting the needs of others ahead of her own in the way she’s lived and still does to this day.
Fighting cancer is like a war. Life is like that too. You can wish all you want for better circumstances. But the fact is, you’ve got to live your life and make the best of it in the context of what you’ve got. And Laura has exemplified the spirit of a warrior who refuses to shrink back or pity herself, despite all the challenges and obstacles, trusting Jesus in all and finding strength in His all sufficient grace.
For her five year cancer anniversary Laura got Covid. About the time she was finishing her seven day chemo cycle. Already sick from the chemo, Covid caused her to be incredibly fatigued. After a couple of days of that, God opened a door for her to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment which quickly worked to turn things around. And she’s feeling much better now. Praise the Lord!
We’ve been so incredibly blessed by the loving concern and prayers and help of so many family members and friends! Thank you for your unwavering support through it all. In this needy world, how precious it is to witness the love of God in action through it all!
So, here’s to you, Laura, on the five-year anniversary of your diagnosis. To say that its been a difficult five years would be an understatement. But you’ve been remarkable and amazing and brave. I love you. You are much loved by so many. May God strengthen your heart and alleviate your pain and grant you renewed strength in the days ahead.