Autobiography With Purpose: Sundry Responses To John’s Cancer

10th Anniversary Party By Bob Cobbet 005

Photo by Bob Cobbet — 10th Anniversary Party at Brookville

2012 went well for about three weeks, but then John found blood in his stool. By the end of February, an analoscopy showed that he had colon cancer.

In mid March, he went to Massachusetts General Hospital (where all his doctors are) for a full colonoscopy. Because Polio had already rendered him ventilator dependent much of the time, I questioned whether or not the procedure would kill him. So I felt relieved when I joined him in the recovery room to see him smiling and optimistic about his upcoming surgery.

A girlfriend from Brookville Baptist Church came to the hospital with me. She and I sat with John while we waited for her husband and another man from church to come take him home. As the nurses worked on the discharge papers, my friend and I told him that we’d seen a helicopter landing on a field in Dorchester when we were driving in (John normally gets excited over things like that). To my surprise, he simply said, “Oh wow.”

I looked up at his heart-monitor. It had flatlined.

All sorts of doctors, nurses and medical technicians imaginable swooped into his cubicle, including the surgeon who had performed the colonoscopy and John’s cardiologist. I can’t remember how long it was before I could see him (an hour?), but when I came back to him he was his typical self, trying to entertain everybody.  Understandably, the doctors wanted to keep him overnight for observation.

The next morning I learned that during the night he suffered a heart attack. Had he been anywhere other than Massachusetts General Hospital, he wouldn’t have survived.

The women of Brookville Baptist Church took turns feeding me meals, spending nights and keeping me company during the time John was hospitalized, as did his female cousins. The bleeding from the cancer, made worse by the blood thinners he took until he healed from the heart attack, necessitated frequent transfusions, requiring him to stay at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital. Men from church and the husband of John’s cousin took me to visit him as often as they could. A girlfriend from another church, who had a wheelchair accessible van, also helped out. John’s Personal Care Attendant, as well as my own PCAs, filled in the gaps.

I did recognize the Lord’s faithfulness in meeting my practical needs, but I honestly believed the surgery would kill my husband.  (Little did I know at the time that, because of the bleeding, he would have died by June.) The six weeks between the heart attack and the colon reconstruction surgery brought me intense anxiety and despair.

Having begun to grasp the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, I understood that He had predetermined whether John would live or die on that operating table. Therefore, my prayers wouldn’t change His decision.  Often, I viewed Him as being heartless, and likened my prayers for John to beating my fists against His breastplate.

One morning I started yelling at Him so strongly that my voice seemed to lacerate the lining of my throat. I tearfully told Him that I hated Him for taking my husband away from me.

I remembered a girl in college telling my it was healthy to get mad at God. “He has big shoulders,” she explained, “He can handle our anger.” But that morning, as a raged against Him, I knew very well that my tirade blasphemed His loving and perfect character. Yes, God could handle my wrath, but He still called it sin. That horrible morning, He once again allowed me to see my wretched sin nature.

My girlfriend from church met me at Massachusetts General Hospital on May 15 to sit with me in the waiting room. I know I should have accepted the Bible that she offered to hold for me, but I didn’t know where to read. I had, by then, repented of my anger toward God. This time, I was just too scared. When the surgeon finally called me, I braced myself, fearing that John had gone Home to Jesus.

I’d forgotten that I’d married a stubborn Irishman!

Through the two-and-a-half months of John being away (he came home just before Father’s Day), Brookville Baptist Church supported both of us with prayers and actions. God’s faithfulness contrasted my blasphemy. That August, the church blessed us with a memorable party to celebrate our tenth anniversary. ..an anniversary that John almost missed.

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