“Sir, may I see some identification?”, I said to the man in the parking lot. “Sir, I have to check your name in our system- I need to see your ID.”, I repeated.
As you may have gathered from my statement above, I work as a police officer. This was not anything out of the ordinary for me to say and I was keeping my focus on the situation at hand.
I look down at my phone for just a moment while maintaining good visual of the suspect.
It’s Nicole. She’s calling. She was supposed to get news about the tumor they recently found in her stomach.
I have to answer this. There is no way I can miss this call.
“Sir, stay right there, this officer will be here to keep an eye on you, don’t leave”, I said.
I step away.
“Hello?”, I said into the phone. I was expecting to hear my sweet wife, Nicole’s voice.
But crying is all I heard. Oh no. What happened?
“Honey…”, my wife whispered into the phone. “They think that I have cancer.”
If it was possible for planet earth to stop spinning for one moment on its axis, for all the noise and movement to cease, for all the people driving their cars to suddenly stop, for the suspect I was with at work to suddenly stop talking, this was it. Time literally stood still.
If any of you have had an earth-stopping moment like that, you know that after that moment passes, time has to speed up again to catch up.
My sweet, beautiful, Nicole, the love of my life, had cancer. Cancer! What? How do I even process that?
The rest of that conversation passed by in fast-forward, and it was all that I could do to think of one thing:
“Let’s pray,” I suggested over the phone. And I used every last bit of the small amount of oxygen left in my lungs to pray to God in that moment.
I will never forget it. That moment is frozen in my brain like a bad scene in a movie you would just soon forget. I remember getting off the phone and just wanting to give my Nik a big hug and feeling so inadequate that I was not there to do that.
A year has passed since that time and many, many things have happened since then. From blood clots to miracles, it has been the craziest journey of my life. Reflecting on that time, Nik asked me to share some of the most valuable things I learned along the way for any of you who may be picking up your jaw off the floor after hearing earth-shattering news or find yourself struggling through being a caregiver. This is first of a series of posts, but I wanted to start with 3 lessons that popped into my mind:
Lesson #1- You won’t have all the answers or solutions. Lean on others for help.
My dad taught me early on that it was good to fix things. In a culture today where if something breaks, we just toss it and get a new one, that is a lesson that has stuck with me. It is good to try and fix things. Certainly, because God, our Great Physician and Healer, is in the business of fixing things. He is the Master of taking broken things and making them new again.
One thing that I realized over time through our cancer battle, is that this was one thing that I could not just go and ‘fix’. As noble as it is to try and fix your loved one’s cancer, it was one situation that we call in the business, ‘above your pay-grade’. I would do everything I could to help, but the truth is that I needed help, and a lot of it from many!
I was truly amazed at how much help we received in the coming months. From doctors and medical staff, from strangers and co-workers, to friends, to the strength of family, to the everlasting comfort of our Friend in Jesus, we received help.
I found that through our journey, this was not something that I needed to fix. This was something that I needed to learn how to lean on others for strength and I cannot encourage you enough to ask family, friends, and medical teams for resources and support. (For anyone reading that walked through that journey with us, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You were the strength that we needed to make a very scary trial a little less terrifying.)
Most of all, this season taught me to rely on the strength of God’s promises. That through the chaos and the chemo, He was still God, and His promises of eternal life were still true. He is God and I am not. I had to trust in Him in a whole new way. This was too big for me, but not for Him, and I found comfort in that.
Lesson #2- Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
I could not take away Nicole’s pain, cure her nausea, clear the fog from chemo brain, or take the chemo for her on the days when she lacked stamina. And that was so hard, oh, those days were hard to watch. I remember just going into a room by myself and just weeping; uncontrollably weeping because it pained me so much to see my Nik like that.
In those moments, I thank God for His comfort in reminding me that He was with me, and loved me. He is the one who reminded me of what I could do: encourage her.
So I would encourage Nicole to write, encourage her to read, encourage her to trust in God, encourage her to keep taking those medications when I brought them to her, and encourage her to rest.
Encourage, encourage, encourage. That was my job during that season and still is today.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV).
Lesson #3- Be Present
Nicole had to take two types of chemo. One type was harder then the other, and on the weeks she got the hard one, it would really take its toll on her body. I remember thinking to myself on those weeks that I just wasn’t doing enough to help. Here I am, feeling fine, and my spouse is in bed excruciatingly sick. I felt so horrible in those moments!
What could I do to make her feel better?
Sometimes, we forget what it means to just sit and be present. We think we have to think of something clever to say, or profound to pray, or some helpful way to serve.
I think it was powerful for me to hear from Nicole that some of the most helpful times for her were when I was just present. Just being there with her in that moment proved to be pretty powerful. Isn’t that how God is to us too? We often pray that our circumstances would instantly change, but when they don’t, He is still there with us and that is enough.
So caregivers: in the middle of serving, praying for, and encouraging your fighter, remember that sometimes it is enough to just be present. Listen, smile, laugh, and know that God is with you while you are with your loved one.
Thank you for reading this! God bless you!
I would love to hear your experiences as caregivers! What was it that you learned through your journey, or what did God speak to you through your experience?
We have so much to share with one another! I look forward to sharing more lessons that I learned from my journey with y’all in the future. Reach out to Nicole and let me know! We are praying for caregivers today!