Heaven’s Song

music

Three years now we had been warring with the invisible beast in a back and forth tug of war for Dean’s life. Each rope pulling on him with equal ferocity, cutting into his skin. Leaving burns. The ropes grew tighter. Frayed. Each one becoming more frantic. Seeking him not in part, but whole.

Dean recovered from another brush with death. He recovered from the chemo and started to improve after the horrendous infection that followed. Before we left to go back to Esperance, they wanted to see if Dean was, in fact, in remission. The doc didn’t think he would be. I was particularly raw that day. The doctor’s prognosis confirmed what I’d felt for a long time. I wouldn’t have Dean for long. Didn’t know how long. But it wasn’t going to be as long as I wanted. We wouldn’t grow old together. The very idea made my heart almost too heavy to carry. My eyes were full glasses of water. Ready to spill over at the slightest disturbance.

As Dean was getting his marrow drawn, I did a bit of shopping. After an hour of relatively unfruitful retail perusing, I went back to the ward. Dean and I awaited the doctor for the results. He came in and sat pensively on the edge of the bed. He then told us that incredibly Dean was in remission. Elation. Progress! Hope. After so much bad news, this was a shot of adrenaline to the heart. And we were soaring. I kissed Dean. I had to walk. I left Dean to get himself organized and ready to leave. I just had to get outside and look into the sky and thank God.

The Hay Street mall was only down the block. It had become a frequent and pleasant escape for me over these months and years. God used the sun to caress my upturned, smiling face. My heart was a brownie with a molten center and my face its candle atop. I walked into Cafe 54 on cloud ten. Walking on air. Raptured in amazement. Wow. Beaming. Radiant. Joy. I ordered my chai latte and sat down in a booth. Wonderment. Music. I hear music. It was a song I’d never heard before. I listened intently. It almost sounded like…like a worship song. Then words “Ooooooh praise him, oooooooh praise him, he is holyyyyyy, he is holyyyyyyy.” Am I hearing that? Is that really playing? I looked around at other customers to see if they could hear it too. Heaven must have opened over me. It’s a portal! I’m hearing the song of my heart being played in heaven! Eyes, wide. Ears, drinking in the melody. Each. Exquisite. Note. I was raptured in musical euphoria. I studied my surroundings. Trying to discern if this music was playing in heaven or on Earth. That’s really playing!  That is actually playing in the cafe. Are these guys christians? I walked over to the cafe owner. We were on a first name basis as I had been there so frequently. I couldn’t hide my glee.

“I love this music! Are you guys christians?!”

“Yeah,” He smiled back at me. “this is our pastor.” He gestured to the man acting as barista. Wow! I tried to describe to them my morning’s revelations and my awe when hearing the song. How it blessed me! Wings.

The joy of the Lord is our strength. And he filled me with strength that day. I was going to need it.

When I got back to the hospital, the doc gave us a sobering discussion. “Getting the results back that Dean is in remission is really encouraging, but the reality is that the cancer will come back and Dean probably only has about six months.” That was sobering. Where do we go from here? 

I got in the driver’s seat and Dean laid down in the back of the car, overcome with emotion.

“What are we going to do honey? What do you think about what the doctor said?” I could hear that he was crying, which he rarely did.

I was feeling strong. Resolve. “Babe. We are not going to let this be a dark cloud over our heads. Over our life and our family. We are going to go home and live life. And do that to the full. They are doctors. We can be grateful for them, but they don’t have all the answers.”

We returned to Esperance.

And then the worst began.

Trapped

trapped

 

Shortly after the transplant Dean took my advice. He went to a naturopathy clinic. I’d been pleading with him to do it since the initial diagnosis. We found one in Perth where they do the super immune boosting injections. The boys and I remained in Esperance while he went and received their regimen. One week of injections everyday. At the end of the week his immune system was crazy strong! In fact his immune system was so strong that his GVH (Graph Verses Host disease- it’s the term describing how a transplant attacks or rejects the recipients body) symptoms skyrocketed out of control and became completely unbearable. The experience was so demoralizing for us. To come to a place where we COULDN’T strengthen his immune system. Or else we would actually hurt him. Couldn’t suppress it too much or we risk relapse.

Trapped.

We took one day at a time. Trying to keep looking up. Looking to Him.

Our friends and family were our backbone. They were beyond amazing. More of a community than I had ever known. These people cooked for us. Gave us money. Watched our kids. Brought us all kinds of gifts. Trips. Blankets. Cards. Groceries. Flowers. Gas. Books. They stood by us. Prayed for us. Encouraged us. Cried with us. Laughed with us. Stood by us. Kneeled with us. Their hearts broke in unison with ours when bad news hit. They experienced our joy when we got good news. They walked the journey with us. They made sacrifices. They went out of their way. Spent time. Spent money. They poured love on us. In so many ways. At so many pivotal moments. Kind acts of every variety. Thoughtfulness that I’d never witnessed, much less received. It was humbling. It was overwhelming. We found ourselves being in awe frequently of the generosity of so many around us. Some knew us well and others hardly at all. But all gave. They carried us. They lifted us. They strengthened us. They were life to our family. They were the steel toe in our boots. The thrust in our engine. And when the flames of our hearts burned low, they kindled, fed, and stirred them.

Fatigue came. Then the joint pain. Dean’s blood counts started to fall. They punctured his sternum to confirm, the invisible beast had returned again. Stubborn and determined to stake his claim on my Dean. The transplant had not worked.

Perth. Chemo. Side effects. Pain. Infection.

Dean’s mum and I were half way to Perth and preparing to stop for the night when we got a call. The nurse said Dean was under the close watch of the doctor because of high temp, low blood pressure, high heart rate, and slightly low oxygen. We decided to push all the way through and arrived after midnight.

I wasn’t prepared for what I would see. It was unbearable. I’d seen Dean sick. Really sick. Lots of times. This was different. This was a whole new level.

They had tried multiple times to get an IV in. He had white bandages with blood stains on the back of each hand. He was completely burning up. They laid a white cloth across his head to help keep him cool. His lips were cracked and pealing. The inside of his mouth was dry. He greeted me through heavy eyelids, but only for a moment. His body shook with each heart beat. As though he were swinging his sword which was clashing with that of his adversary.

I stood, taking in the enormity of his suffering. The excruciating suffering. Jesus. The bandages on his hands with wounds like stigmata. And I had to watch. Watching it. Watching it happen. That was the worst part. It was torture. And I could bear it no longer.

GOD! I can’t do it. I can’t watch this. This recurring nightmare. Over and over and over. Please God. Have mercy! Make him well or take him home! It’s too much. The suffering. It’s too much. The torment of watching it. My eyes burned hot. My love. My love. My love. My Dean. Oh God, Dean. Please God. God help me. The sobs seized me as I convulsed with emotion. My hatred of this wretched fucking faceless bastard called cancer. I can’t do it God. I can’t do it anymore. God. God. God. Please. No more. Please.

Mercy. Mercy. Mercy.