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By the time she knew she had cancer, it was almost too late. But a drop of oil and a pastor's prayer made the difference.
“I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?” There was a note of alarm in Dr. Hammond’s kind voice. A note I’d never heard in all the years I’d gone to his urgent-care clinic. Sitting on the exam table, I gripped my husband Pete’s hand.
“Whichever you think best,” I said. I could hear the apprehension in my voice too.
Dr. Hammond nodded. “The bad news is you have ovarian cancer. Very advanced. The good news is I’ve already found you a good surgeon. You need to see him right away.”
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I heard Dr. Hammond’s words. I saw his mouth move. But for a moment all I could feel was Pete’s hand tighten around mine. The air seemed to have been sucked from the room. Then Dr. Hammond was motioning Pete out into the hall, to give details about contacting the surgeon, I figured.
I sat in the room alone, stunned. I could not possibly have advanced ovarian cancer. Yes, I’d been having troubling abdominal symptoms. That’s what brought me to this clinic. But I wasn’t the type to get sick. I’d raised seven kids, all of them grown now and married.
Lynda’s Café, the neighborhood kids called my house, where there were always tamales to spare and little noses pressed against the screen sniffing the smell of freshly made tortillas. Ours was the bustling house on the block and I was the bustling mom.
I worked in a grocery store bakery, then kept right on cooking and baking after I retired. I never got tired. I loved life. I knew God didn’t make mistakes and everything happened for a reason. But this felt like a mistake.
Pete and the doctor returned. That’s when I knew it was no mistake. Pete’s face was drawn. Whatever Dr. Hammond had told him, it was more than the surgeon’s contact info. The news must be very bad.
“Lynda,” said Dr. Hammond, “I told Pete you need to make your appointment with the surgeon right away. Your chances...” He paused. “Well, just call the surgeon.” Pete drove us home. I looked out at the familiar roads, feeling disoriented.
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I’m a deeply faithful person. I totally trust God. But I couldn’t help being afraid. It was like a huge truck had suddenly appeared ahead, gunning straight toward us.
“All we can do is pray,” I murmured to Pete. It was our prayers versus the truck.
Everyone gathered around–family, church, friends. Life became trips to Phoenix for doctor’s appointments. After a procedure to remove fluid from my abdomen, Dr. Hammond even told me I should think about signing up for hospice care.
“But hospice is for dying people!” I protested. Still, I did as Dr. Hammond suggested. When the hospice coordinator learned I wanted to try chemotherapy after surgery, though, she said they wouldn’t be able to offer their services.
“Hospice is for end-of-life care only,” she told me.
I didn’t want this to be the end. I was only 59! I thought back over my life–my first marriage, then marrying Pete, raising our two sets of kids, Lynda’s Café.
Suddenly I remembered something from my church growing up. How our pastor would anoint the sick with oil and pray for them. Our church had believed strongly in the healing power of God’s Spirit. Was that what I needed? A kind of spiritual chemo?
It was as if my sister Mary Margaret read my mind. She was my big sister. She’d always looked out for me. Out of the blue she called and announced, “Lynda, I found a pastor who will anoint you with oil. Remember how they did that when we were kids? He’s coming the day before your surgery.”