You Plan, God Laughs

In they walked, shaking your hand as they introduced themselves by first names, Dave, Ted, Bruce and Tom — surgeon, radiologist, chemotherapist and resident — your medical team crowding into the tiny hospital consulting room. It feels like you’re meeting a squadron of World War II fighter pilots — brash, confident, surprisingly young top-drawer practitioners who’ve just signed on to fight your personal war with cancer. They make the mission clear right from the start: “This is about a cure,” the surgeon tells you, “that’s where we’re headed.”

Halfway through the strategy session you ask if eight weeks from now you might be recovered enough to serve as chaplain on a round-the-world cruise. In what’s almost a theatrical way, the four physicians shake their heads ‘no’ in unison. “Ah, well,” you think, “it’s clear that this particular cure is going to take some time. You may be booked on the express, but it’s a long-distance connection; they all know it, and now, so do you.

The team lays out the options and you all agree fairly quickly on a treatment plan. You choose the European protocol: radiation for only one week followed almost immediately by laparoscopic surgery. And that’s it, except . . . . ”Except?” you ask. Except, they continue, if it turns out the cancer has spread. In that case, you’ll undergo chemotherapy next — eight infusions over sixteen weeks. Something tells you you’ll need to take those noxious chemicals. Then and there, you set your course spiritually for a six-month recovery period. It’s good to know and it’s good to be prepared; you’re not an old Eagle Scout for nothing.

“At least we have a roadmap,” you say to Elizabeth as you leave the hospital. She wryly responds, “Well, it’s not the trip we planned!” You look at each other, and you both begin to laugh. You have to stop where you are, on the granite steps leading to the street. With one hand you each hold on to the brass railing beside you. Your free arms circle each other and you keep on laughing as the world around you passes in and out the hospital doors.

3 Thoughts on “You Plan, God Laughs

  1. Colleen on November 24, 2017 at 7:57 am said:

    Poignantly brave, you take us with you on your journey.

  2. Julie P Nicholson on November 24, 2017 at 10:05 am said:

    I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes at your bravery, pluckiness, humor, good sportsmanship and your love for each other! I am heartened by the cheerful bright blue of the sky in the picture you have chosen for this message – and I marvel at your turn of phrase!

    Why, of course,that is your present journey: to keep on writing messages like this one and turn them all into a book which will give others courage.

    There is nothing to say that the surgeons and doctors can’t quell the cancer. And the world will keep on spinning, it will still all be there waiting for you to take your world voyage. It just happens that THIS year, the good Lord has given you a different route to take. Then NEXT year, your voyage will be so much more enhanced.

    It may not appear so right now, but from where I sit, you and Elizabeth have been truly blessed, because I am convinced that with faith, you WILL make that world voyage. Right now, however, you seem to be managing the present spiritual journey with great pluck, optimism and courage! You are a true inspiration, and we all love you for it!

  3. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas on November 25, 2017 at 1:04 pm said:

    Thank you for this vivid, gripping, and beautifully written essay. You are clearly living life fully, with eyes and heart wide open. Blessings to you and Elizabeth, day by day by day. Thank you for inviting us to walk the journey with you.

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