“ Way to Calvary,” is a threshold. . . a road sign that many of us will encounter when we find ourselves in a doctor’s office hearing words that somehow cannot be comprehended or easily digested. My husband, myself and my two sons would find ourselves in that position as we waited together to hear the results of Rob’s bone marrow test. We made small talk amongst ourselves and each of us tried to be upbeat and escape the obvious feelings of queasiness that were welling up from within as we waited impatiently.
When the doctor entered, she came in with papers in hand and then told us the results. As they say, it’s all in the delivery and her delivery was not that good. On a spring day in May, it was anything but flowers and sunshine. She immediately cast a darkness in that room that seemed as if we were living through a major eclipse of the sun.
The Kiss of Christ poem that had been prayed over me in 2012 was a precursor of what was coming in 2014. As I mentioned in my last posting, I knew “suffering” was on its way and couldn’t imagine what it was. Rob had survived a horrendous surgery, recuperated after a year and we found ourselves rejoicing and living life in a spirit of gratefulness to God for the “bonus” years that we were being blessed with.
However, here we were in the present moment in a consult room at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan looking at a doctor who did not have the “proverbial bedside manner.” Rob was diagnosed with something called stage 4 – myelofibrosis leukemia. Probably one of the worst blood cancers that one can be diagnosed with. I remember trying to keep a permanent smile on my face as if I was posing for a picture to be taken. I scanned my sons’ faces and one looked like a deer caught in the headlights and the other’s eyes filled with tears as he tried to go into “corporate mode” and articulate pain into questions. My husband remained calm as always.
Remember, we had heard devastating news before. In 2009, they told my husband to get his papers in order and would be sending him home to die. We certainly didn’t surrender to that diagnosis then and no way were we going to surrender to this monumental piece of horrendous news. We both had more hope in God than that and that is what I was thinking in my mind as the doctor gave us the verdict.
Myelofibrosis occurs when blood stem cells develop a genetic mutation. Blood stem cells have the ability to replicate and divide into the multiple specialized cells that make up your blood — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. It’s not clear what causes the genetic mutation in blood stem cells. As the mutated blood stem cells replicate and divide, they pass along the mutation to the new cells. As more and more of these mutated cells are created, they begin to have serious effects on blood production. The end result is usually a lack of red blood cells — which causes the anemia characteristic of myelofibrosis — and an overabundance of white blood cells with varying levels of platelets. In people with myelofibrosis, the normally spongy bone marrow becomes scarred.”
My smile was leaving my face quickly and the room seemed to be getting darker by the minute. Then the room went pitch black when the doctor verbalized the words that my precious husband of 44 years would live only another 2-5 years.
After these words hit the air, I retaliated vehemently to the doctor, “God is the one who is in charge of life and death! Not us!!!” I surely had more hope in Jesus who had just given us a miracle only 5 years earlier than the doctor who was standing before us in a white coat with negativity that we did not want to breathe in. The words just seemed to be poison and you just wanted to “exhale.” So here we all stood. We had arrived at our destination and we were about to enter the “Way to Calvary” together as husband and wife along with our two sons that were born into our lives by the fruit of our love.
What was happening here? I asked myself silently within. It wasn’t supposed to end like this! Only five years earlier, Rob had escaped death by the skin of his teeth in this very same hospital. Miracles had abounded and yet I seemed to hear the words in my heart of the vows we solemnly pledged to each other 44 years ago on one very hot July morning at the altar of God:
I, Anita, take you, Robert to be my husband
to have and to hold
from this day forward
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part
according to God’s holy law
and this is my solemn vow.
We had been married very young and literally grew up together through the years. As I mentioned in prior postings, we had met literally at a red light. It always has seemed to me that our God is a “God of Detail” and I can only imagine how He timed those lights for our two cars to pull up beside each other that day! We went through everything together and I considered my husband my best friend, my confidant and my soulmate. I also considered my husband to be my “Knight in “shining armor.” Jesus couldn’t be calling him home! I told myself. He just couldn’t now!
The doctor seemed to offer some kind of bleak hope. There were bone marrow transplants; there were clinical trials and there were all kinds of medicines. There were tests, other specialists to see, blood tests, etc. etc. It was like hearing one of those radio commercials where the announcer speaks so fast that you can’t possibly understand all the words spouted out. So we left Mt. Sinai that afternoon with heavy hearts. Our oldest son, Rob, taking the train back to his apartment and my youngest son, Nick, my husband and myself getting into the car and riding home on the Long Island Expressway. Just the word “expressway” seemed to be ominous to me as I sat in the car mindlessly looking out the window. This was one road that I didn’t want me nor my husband to travel on. We would have much preferred one of our beautiful road trips that day rather than driving home with such dismal news.
My faith tells me that Jesus got into the car with us that “fateful“ day. It just wasn’t the three of us in the car. Jesus was ever present. He was at the wheel of Rob’s life and we had to trust in that reality whatever the outcome would be. He would be our strength, our fortress, our deliverer. He would be our God and He would yet again walk the Way to Calvary with us, never leaving our sides as I will share in the next posting.
I leave you now with a beautiful song from the sixties “Nights in White Satin”
dedicated to Rob. . .
sung by the “Moody Blues,”. . .
one of my husband’s favorite groups back in the day!
Rob. . . the “Light of My Life”
©2018 Anita Guariglia
Photo Credits. . .Anita Guariglia
Mayo Clinic/Myelofibrosis Leukemia