It’s two o’clock in the morning. A waning gibbous moon floats in a jet-black sky as the river runs swiftly past snow-patched fields on the way to Penobscot Bay. Something is about to change, I feel, as swiftly and inexorably as the tide on its way back to the sea. This morning we’ll travel to Boston to image my body’s inner being and then, first thing the next day, we’ll sit down with my oncologist for . . . what? A sentencing hearing? A definitive word from the Delphic Oracle? An assessment and strategy conference with life or death consequences? This looming session will chart my future; it all comes down to this: ‘Here’s how you’ve done, here are your prospects, here is what you have to look forward to.’
We arrive early for the 7:30 AM consultation, the only ones in the waiting room. They take us right away. In a few moments, Dr. Deason enters the examining room — and he’s smiling! No, better than that, he’s grinning from ear to ear. It’s a great day when you can give your oncologist something to smile about! “I’ve never seen anyone do so well with this treatment,” he announced. “There has been a dramatic reduction of the lesions in the liver. I know the side effects have been very rough on you, but they really are indicative of how effective the treatment has been. We’ve found a winner that we can use for as long as it remains effective!”
After going through the many positive details of the report, Dr. Deason asks, “Well, what are you going to do to celebrate?” “As a matter of fact,” I reply, “I just received a last minute request to serve as chaplain on the Queen Victoria’s repositioning voyage from Cape Town, South Africa to Southampton, England. We thought we might bring it up if the oncology report were so dismal that it became time to throw caution to the winds and just go one more time on a chaplaincy cruise.” “Oh, you must go,” he urged. “You’ve had a miserable time of it. You deserve a chemo break which will also allow us to do that corrective surgery we’ve been wanting you to have after you get back. We can resume the chemotherapy after that. Whatever ground we might lose in the break we’ll be able to make up swiftly because we know what your body responds to so well. So, go! Doctor’s orders!”
It’s more than a little crazy, but here we are: airline tickets have been reserved, Cape Town hotel reservations are booked, all April 8 through April 29 appointments have been cancelled. One more reduced chemotherapy session is scheduled for the middle of next week and then, five days after that, we’ll be on our way. Crazy, all right — crazy and wonderful. The struggle with cancer is far from over, but an hiatus has been achieved. I haven’t been cured, but I’ve been granted a parole, twenty-one precious days for Elizabeth and me to celebrate being alive, being of use, being God’s beloved ones in this challenging but grace-filled world.