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Monday, June 14, 2010

At The Cancer Clinic (entry 7)

The Cancer Clinic at the Health Science centre is new and bright in comparison to many other parts of the hospital. When you enter your eye catches the cheerful colours and local artwork in the foyer.
There is a reception desk on the top floor near the entrance but it is empty. (We were early.) I notice that some people are are coming in and passing by the desk and heading downstairs, so I follow them and find two reception desks at the doorway to the clinic. I introduced myself to the person there and she tells me that first time patients have to wait upstairs until they are called to complete an initial registration. Because it it is early,there are not a lot of people around .
I go upstairs to find someone at the desk she assures me that when the other receptionist comes in,I’ll get straightened away.
Three ladies from the west coast arrive. They are first timers too,and spend some time looking around to see what to do. The receptionist has disappeared, so I welcome them and tell them what I know.
We wait. We wait some more, and my appointment time comes and goes. The ladies are getting worried too because they think that their friend (one of the three!) has missed her appointment . When I see the receptionist I dutifully dodge across the fancy formal foyer and ask her to explain just what we should expect. Again, I pass on the information to the ladies three .
The reception people are friendly enough, but I think that the power of routine and early morning business has affected the attention someone new would expect at the entrance of a Cancer Clinic.
As a new patient waiting to hear first time critical news , I found “step one rather unsettling.
Within a short time we are all registered,and sent downstairs. By now the Cancer Clinic waiting room is full of all sorts and conditions of people. I enjoy a few conversations.On occasion Karen and I just look at each other and hold hands.
All kinds of people here. One older couple catches my eye. The wife is a tall woman. She is holding the hand of her husband and is pacing the floor with him. He is tiny. He wears a baseball cap,size small for sure,but it looks really large on him. Add to that picture a denim jacket and pants pulled way up past his waist.
As time goes on,I have to pee. Yep. I'm telling you everything. I head off ,find the men's room and go inside.
Karen absolutely hates public bathrooms, but I don't mind because I can pee standing up!
Before I get to far inside,the bathroom stall swings open and the tall lady quickly sticks her head out. her with worried look is an apology. “It's my husband.” she says He's got diarrhoea and I have to take care of him. She brings him to the sink and I notice she is holding on to him with one hand and getting some paper towel with the other. “I can't let him go,because he will take off. He has Alzheimers.”
I smile at her, dampen her towel ,and sensing her embarrassment and need for privacy leave them alone in the bathroom. When they come out they sit beside me for a few minutes and we make light conversation.

God bless married couples who are faithful in richer or poorer,in sickness in health . It's a beautiful witness. These people remind me of some of the couples at St. Martins.
Thank you Karen.I need you

Poor woman. Her husband has had his life robbed by Alzheimers, and I assume ,now has cancer on top of it. That poor man. A few minutes later the doctor calls HER name. “Come with me sweetheart." Hand and hand they walk to see the doctor. “
I want to cry, so I get up to finish that pee. The bathroom reeks of his bowel movement,which for me (rather than turning my stomach) adds a beautifully poignant sense to what I have just witnessed. God is talking. I say a prayer for them asking for Grace to be upon them both as they walk in the valley of the Shadow of Death. I have placed them in my prayer journal, and will remember them for a long time to come.
At last we are ushered into an examination room to see the doctor. The oncology nurse joins us to gather some information,and to let us know what to expect. At the clinic,when patients are receiving results or treatment options the whole treatment team gathers. The nurse warns us that they “travel in packs” and they bring their students so don't be alarmed.
In essence, you end up with a room full of experts who have already read your results, and want do their own examination and ask you some questions. After this they all disappear to consult. Within a few moments your doctor returns to let you know what is being recommended as your treatment.
The consultation goes something like this.
My doctor rushes in. “How you doing old man?”
“You tell me.”
”Okay. You need to sit in that green chair over there.”
When I went into the room I knew I was going to end up in the Green examination chair. I just didn't like the look of it,so I sat somewhere else.
Think about it. Green Chair,wooden armrests and I swear, a light with a big white shade right in the middle. There are wires hanging from the back of the chair which are used for a camera.
Ole Sparky!
I think they bought the electric chair that was used in the movie The Green Mile.
As soon as I sit the doctor pulls a chair in front of me and tells me he is going to freeze my throat so they can all have a look. He grabs a can of STUFF and attaches what looks like an oversize Q-tip to it. This contraption ends up in my mouth. Squirt Squirt. Then, he shoves it down my left nostril and squirts some more. (glad he did it in that order)
This stuff is BITTER.
He is sitting directly in front of me, so I can't see whats going on the the room but I know the entourage has arrived when I hear Snap, Snap,Snap,Snap,Snap,Snap,Snap,Snap,Snap. Snap. Everyone is getting the rubber gloves,and waiting to get at me.
In a second, there is a camera probe down my neck (via my nose,) and everyone ,including Karen, can see my tumour in living colour.
Its all a bit overwhelming, so I warn them that when they are finished I am going to pass around a collection plate.
Lots of questions,the other doctors examine me and leave.
One of them,who seems to be the oldest pauses for a minute. Kind eyes and a smile.
“You are from Glenwood?” “Yes.” “Salmon fish?”
“Love it. “(P.S. Thanks again for the rod and reel Dot ....your kindness means the world to me)
“Listen,” he says . “This is not the end of the world. We'll have you back on the Gander River.”
Thank you Jesus. A kind word turns away wrath (sorrow,fear,and stress too).

My doctor comes back.
I learn the raw details.
The tumour is Cancer .
Surgery means we will remove your tongue and most of your vocal cords.
No Thanks. Can you imagine me without a tongue?
“Your best option is Chemotherapy and Radiation. If it doesn’t work, we are not burning the bridge. We can do the operation later.”
There might be a spot on your liver and the back of your neck We'll double check.
I like this doctor. He's busy, proficient, efficient and good.. I noticed through the whole time that the closer we got to revealing the bad news he more time he spent,and the more compassionate he became.
He's on my prayer list now too . Bless him Lord as he touches so many lives.
Next up – a series of meetings with nurses,oncologists. A plan is laid out,I am told of the side effects,and assured that these folks really want to take care of me. I believe them.

Things are rolling pretty fast . After five trips to St. John's in a week and a half , just one more MRI and one more blood test, before returning Gander to meet the folks at the Cancer clinic . I have prepared my heart for what's coming. I have to tell the people of St. Martin's what's happening.


karenmoulton said...

God Bless. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Squidge said...

I'm sending you my love. Put it in your pocket for later.

Anonymous said...

We are thinking and praying for you and we are truly being blessed by sharing your journey.....Thank you for the privilege.....love you,Art and Violet

Joan Wilkinson said...

God Bless You Rev John,God Bless you!! You are such a wonderful man!!!
Lots of heartfelt hugs to your family.

Anonymous said...

We love you very much....make sure you have a BIG BIG pocket!!!
Tina & Dean

Cindy/Tim said...

Hi John and Karen
Wow, is all I can say right now, things are moving fast and that is good, we are blessed to be able to travel with you if only from a distance. You are always in our thoughts and prayers, hope to see you on Friday or Saturday to give you hugs in person. "Jesus stay with our friend John carry him when the road gets too rough. Amen" Love always Cindy and Tim

mammydiaries said...

Just caught up on the last six posts. Thinking of you here in Ireland :)

Gail + said...

I am reaching out to you, Karen and your children and their famililes in the power of God for his healing grace and mercy.. Dear Lord send your angels of healing, strength, love, perservance, to your beloved children...
hugs and hugs and hugs and hugs and hugs and hugs.....etc to you

Gail + said...

PS John
You will have to be impressed...I just set up a blog spot to post this comment...Now the question to you is this...whats does a blog spot mean..and how does one use ablog spot other than posting comments...eh I said I was cute not a genius when it come to computers lolol
and hugs and hugs and hugs

angelastockley said...

God Bless you and your family Rev. John and thank you for sharing your journey with us. You really truly are a wonderful man and we are blessed to have you at St. Martin's.
Hugs to you !!

gjeanraymond said...

Now is the time that there is only one set of Footprints in the sand!! Prayers and love, Jean and Bill

Anonymous said...


jacqui said...

Prayers for continued strength for you all! This blog is great therapy for you and yours and for us too....Hang in there young friend!

Geraldine said...


You and your family have been in our thoughts everyday since this all began. I can't begin to tell you how sorry we are that you have to go through this - there is just so much to say and yet so little. Just know that you are in our thoughts, our hearts and our prayers.

Geraldine, Baxter and Victoria

chuck.lockhart said...

Hello John,

Ruby and I have been praying since we heard the news and will continue to pray for you, Karen, family and St. Martin's. We left Friday morning on our cross country trip. It is Thursday and we are in Timmins with Eddie and Emmie.


Angie said...

Hi Rev John,

Thank you for sharing this with us. I remember Mom's first visit to the cancer clinic. It was much like you have explained. Its sounds like your in good hands and I'm sure they will treat you well. Thinking of you lots. Love and prayers, Angie, Shaun, Jonah and Madison