As I sat at my desk in staff development preparing a class, suddenly I saw flashing lights through wavy jello with clear floaters. My ophthalmologist told me at my last eye exam that I am high risk for retinal detachment because my nearsightedness makes my retina paper-thin. I knew the flashing lights could be a sign of detachment, so I called immediately for an emergency exam. They told me to come right away. My director told me to go at once.
The doctor dilated my eyes with drops and then carefully examined my retina. I struggled to keep my eyes open from the excruciatingly bright lights as tears streamed down my face. He said he could not find any holes in my retina, but that my vitreous was peeling off my retina, much like when you peel wallpaper off a wall. (The vitreous is the clear gel inside our eyeballs.) He said it would take about a year for my vitreous to totally detach. During this time, whenever I see flashing lights, I need to come immediately for an exam. If a hole develops in my retina, I need emergency surgery so I won’t go blind. My uncle has been totally blind for about 20 years from detached retinas.
I told him about my nursing tour of China in June and asked him if I should cancel it. I also told him I have trip cancellation insurance and emergency evacuation by plane. He said if I could get to Hong Kong if I needed emergency eye surgery, I should be able to go. How I thank God for the precious eyesight He has given me. I’ admit I take my eyesight for granted all too often.
The phone rang about 5 pm. My Dad said, “Pam, I’m afraid your mother isn’t doing well. She was swimming laps today at the indoor pool when she suddenly she turned yellow and started vomiting. They called the ambulance and took her to the local hospital where they admitted her. They did many tests and think something is blocking her bile ducts so they are going to do exploratory surgery first thing in the morning.” I said, “This doesn’t sound good. I’m going to take the day off and come down tonight so I can be there tomorrow.”
I called my director, packed my bag, and jumped in my car to drive 100 miles to my parents’ home. The next morning, I went with Dad and my brother early to the hospital where I said goodbye to Mom before they wheeled her into surgery. The hours dragged as we waited for news. Finally, the surgeon walked in and said she had very fast-growing tumors everywhere. He debulked the tumors as much as he could, and then attached her gall bladder to her small intestine to bypass her blocked bile ducts. It appeared to be cancer of the pancreas, but they would know for sure in a few days when the biopsy results came back. My Dad asked how long he thought she had to live? The doctor replied, “Possibly a few months.” We sat there in stunned silence and wept together. How could Mom go from swimming laps to being at death’s door in 24 hours?
The Lord is near unto those who are of a broken heart. (Psalm 34:18 KJV)
My biggest heartache is that I do not see any evidence that she has received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. My sister and I have shared the gospel with her so many times over the years and have tried to be a good testimony to her, but it seems like our words fall on deaf ears.
Dear Father, Thank you that you love Mom so much more than I do and that You want everyone to receive your dear Son as their Savior. How I pray Mom would have the joy of knowing You and being forgiven of all her sins. I commit her into Your hands and thank You that You do all things well. Amen.
A few days later, my Dad called me and was jubilant. “The biopsy results show your Mom has lymphoma rather than cancer of the pancreas. It is Stage IV and growing rapidly, but should respond well to chemotherapy. They will give her chemo monthly for six months.” After we hung up, I got down on my knees and thanked God for His mercy. Having treatable cancer like lymphoma was so much better than the untreatable cancer of the pancreas.
Easter weekend, April 1986
I went home to spend Easter weekend with my parents. Mom was lying in bed because she was so weak from the chemo. We were enjoying watching an old movie together on TV when all of a sudden her teeth began chattering, and she asked me to get her more blankets. I felt her forehead, and it was burning hot. I put the thermometer in her mouth, and it registered 104 degrees. I knew this was an emergency and called her oncologist. He said to call the ambulance and get her to the hospital at once. The ambulance quickly arrived, and I rode up front while my Dad followed in his car. They admitted Mom directly to the oncology floor, checked her blood and urine, and then started an IV to give her fluids and antibiotics.
Her white blood count (WBC) had dropped dangerously low to 400. Normal is 4500-10,000. The white blood cells are like the body’s soldiers which destroy any bacteria causing infection. Because Mom’s WBC’s were so low, she couldn’t fight the serious infection in her blood. A low WBC is a common side effect of chemotherapy because it destroys the healthy blood cells as well as the cancer. The next 24 hours would be critical.
By Sunday, Mom’s fever had broken and her WBC’s were starting to come up. After attending church Easter morning, we visited Mom who had been placed in isolation. My brother announced that he and his girlfriend had decided to get married. Mom congratulated him, and then said to me, “Pam, I want you to get married before I die,” and our tears flowed again. I was so exhausted from the entire weekend that I couldn’t answer her a word. I hugged Mom goodbye and drove home the 100 miles so I could return to work Monday morning.
On Tuesday evening, my sister called me after she spoke with Mom who started crying again because she wants to see me happily married. Marsha explained to Mom that it was much better to be single than married to the wrong person. After I asked the Lord for wisdom, I decided to write Mom a letter.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)
I’m happy my brother is getting married, but please don’t be sad because I’m not married. The Lord is in control and knows what is best for me. If He wants me married, He will bring along the right man at the right time. If He chooses to leave me single, He will continue to supply my every need as He has in the past. When I feel lonely, I ask God to comfort me, and He always does. God is far more concerned about these things than you or I, so I must leave it in His hands. I have seen what happens when people scheme to “get” a husband, and it always ends in disaster.
Some of the most beautiful godly marriages I have seen have been between older Christians. George and Letty Black were 38 years old when they met and married on the mission field. These lessons have not been easy for me to learn over the years as I’ve watched all my friends marry one by one. I love Him most of all and simply want to do His will above all else and walk by faith.
I continue to hold you up in prayer. Keep eating. May God strengthen you and give you understanding of His wonderful way.
Much Love in Christ, Pam
I hold the trip to China with an open hand. I’m willing to go or willing to stay. God’s will be done. Mom told me she still wants me to go to China so I can tell her all about it when I return.
For any parents that may be reading this, I beg you not to put pressure on your children to get married or make them feel like a failure if they aren’t married. Encourage them to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, because our relationship with Jesus Christ is the only one that lasts for all eternity. Marriage is only for our days here on earth. May we all seek to glorify God, whether we are single or married.