Well, here we are at the very end of May and I am still trying to write about September. Every time I begin this post, I sit and I look at that blinking cursor and my eyes fill with tears and no words find their way onto the page. As the tears course down my face I sit back in my comfy chair and nothing gets done. The words remain stuck in my throat, in my heart, in my very soul. But. But, I am going to get through this. You are my friends and you deserve to know what happened to me.
I was writing about my college girlfriends arriving in France. Oh, what a marvelous few days we had in my favorite country in the entire world. We ate at wonderful restaurants – top notch, starred restaurants, as well as hole-in-the-wall perfect restaurants. We tootled along in our little car up one road and down another. We visited wineries, castles, fortresses, tiny villages, and large towns. We walked for miles, and then walked some more.
It was perfect…until it wasn’t. You see, on 13 September 2021, we three had spent the day out eating, sightseeing, drinking, relaxing, having a good time, living our best life. And, then. (Deep breath) And, then we arrived back at our wonderful house and prepared for a fun day the next day in Bordeaux. As we were getting ready for bed, I received a text from my husband. We knew he was going back for some tests. We knew he was ill. We simply had no idea.
His text was short and to the point: “Bad news. Had biopsy today. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Spread to liver and nearby lymph nodes. I love you.”
The worst text ever. Even now, so many months later, I can hardly write the words. Even with all we have been through, even with how well he is doing, even so…even so, writing those words fills my heart with a dread that is so dark, so complete, it takes my breath away. Breathe, just breathe.
My college girlfriends were in my room in a nanosecond. As soon as they heard my keening wail. A sound, they say, that still brings chills down their spines. We all slept, sort of, together in one bed. They were my constant and total support. I still don’t know what I would have done without them. After all, we thought he wouldn’t have the biopsy until the end of September, long after I would be back. The doctors had decided that they could not wait. Thank the Lord for them. Their determination was a gift.
The next morning I was up at five o’clock and starting working on canceling everything. The Bordeaux wine tour scheduled for that day. The rest of the contract for the house rental. The rest of the contract for the car rental. Once my college girlfriends were up – they had taken turns watching me during the night – they got on the phone with their travel agent and got us plane tickets home. And a hotel. And car pick ups at the train station and the hotel.
It still took us two more days before we were home, but they were my rock, my support. Their presence was a gift. I barely remember the car ride to Angers, the dropping off of the car, the train ride to Paris, the car service pick up to the hotel near the airport. Although, I vividly remember the hotel. It was the Pullman Paris Roissy CDG Airport hotel. I will always be so grateful to them. They set us up with a wonderful two bedroom suite, we had an incredible meal in the hotel restaurant, they made sure we were up and going in plenty of time to make our plane. I will always stay at that airport hotel every single time I return to Paris because of their kindness.
Even now, I have to stop and wipe the tears away. Not with angry hands batting at the tears, but with quiet movements, remembering the gentleness during the storm that was consuming me.
The long plane ride, with a forever-long layover in Dallas Fort Worth, was made bearable only by the kindness of the flight crew and my college girlfriends. One shining light of that trip was the strange, Heaven-sent confluence of events that sat me right beside the best person to be by. That is a story unto itself, and one that is worth the write, and the read.
Because they were last minute ticket changes, my college girlfriends were sitting in the left side two seats, then there were three middle seats and then the right side two seats. My friends were worried about me being in the last (farthest from them) of the three middle seats. The nice couple sitting in the two middle seats to my left, said they would be happy for me to switch with the husband so I would be by my friends with just the aisle between us. Great. We made the switch. Then the flight attendant came by to check with the woman who should have been in my (new) seat. I said that I had switched with her husband. No problem. Just then a voice piped up from the row ahead of us and said that she was the woman the flight attendant needed to talk to. The flight attendant looked quizzically at my seatmates. They shrugged and said the lady and her husband were already sitting in their seats, so they just sat back a row in the others’ seats. So, no one was in their assigned seats! But, the truly incredible things was, the thing that was truly Heaven-sent, was the fact that the woman I was now sitting beside, who should have been one row ahead of me, was a surgical nurse who only assisted with the whipple procedure. That is a surgery done on pancreatic cancer patients. What are the odds that we would have ever sat beside each other? God provides.
She and I talked about pancreatic cancer for a few hours. She told me everything she knew about it. She told me about the surgery and what the odds were for those patients who had the surgery. She comforted me and she prayed with me. She was an angel in disguise. This I know.
Finally, finally, finally, I was home. Home with my husband. Where I belonged. A long road lay ahead of us. But that is a story for the next time. Please hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Don’t ever take them for granted. They are a gift.