An Agony Of Love

1 02 2008

When my children were young I had the mistaken idea that life would be easier when they grew up.  That has never been true.  Jim and I have agonized for each of our children at each step of their lives. Right now I’m agonizing about Maria.  Until now, I’ve kept quiet about an event in her life.  It concerns the possibility of cancer. 

During all of my tests for breast cancer–Maria’s doctor decided that she needed a mammogram.  He was disturbed that I was the third generation to have cancer.  Thus, he immediately ordered a mammogram for Maria.  She received a letter in the mail with the diagnoses of her mammograms as a class 3. There was a recommendation  that she should be tested again in six months.  Naturally, we were all disturbed.  Yet with all the preparations for my breast cancer surgery–we didn’t push Maria.

A couple of weeks ago, I encouraged Maria to ask her doctor to order an ultra sound of her breast.  I went with her a week ago and sat with her while she had the ultra sound.  She had to pick up the film of her mammogram.  It was only then that we read the actual report.  Maria has a 4mm growth in her breast just like I did.  The radiologist passed it off as a benign growth.  Perhaps it is benign.  But what if it is cancer?

I’ve just read to many stories since my cancer journey began of small growths that were passed off as nothing to worry about.  Eventually, in most of the stories–it was cancer that was growing.  By the time the cancer was finally identified, most of these women were in the later stages of cancer.

We are still waiting for the ultra sound report.  I had an appointment with my surgeon this week.  He had to drain another quart of water from my wound.  The wound itself is actually dry and clean. However, the tissue surrounding the wound  fills up with water.  I mentioned to my doctor that Maria had this growth and that no one seemed worried about it.  He immediately said: “With the history your family has with breast cancer, I need to see her.  She needs that growth taken out.  It is worth it–even if it turns out to be benign. “

I hesitated to share this with Maria.  Kirk, her husband, started an independent trucking business a couple of years ago.  They have no health insurance.  Kirk’s truck is always breaking down.  A great deal of money is spent on maintaining the truck.  Their business has survived.  They have been able to pay their bills but there is very little money left for medical bills.  Maria is a U.S. Postmaster relief person.  She keeps quite busy with her job. However,  until she gets a full time job with the U.S. Post Office System–she has no benefits.

At last I got up the courage to tell Maria the opinion  of my surgeon.  My news came at a bad time because Kirk is having more difficulty with his truck.  This has been a bad, bad week for him.  He has not been able to get any good loads.  Right now , he is in California–trying to get a good load that will in the direction of Kentucky. 

Maria was devastated to hear the opinion of my surgeon.  She likes and respects this man.  He took one of her thyroids out when she and Kirk did have insurance.  At that time, Kirk was working at one of the factories here in our town.  She knows that this surgeon isn’t out for just her money.  In fact her next door neighbor worked for this surgeon for many years and has nothing but high praise for his ethics. 

We have  a great deal of problem solving to do in the next few weeks.  I’m still being pushed to have genetic testing.  It is not so much for my sake.  It is for the sake of my three daughters.  My oldest daughter and I were supposed to meet with a doctor of genetics this week.  Vanderbilt called and changed the appointment.  We have a couple of more weeks to wait until we see this doctor.  I struggle with questions like:”Are we playing God with all this talk about genetics?  Can’t we just let it alone ? What did people do before genetic testing?”In recovering from the physical affects of having had a mastectomy–now I anguish mentally and spiritually.  There are no easy answers. 

In the days to come Maria will have to decide what she wants to do.  Although, our family can’t afford to pay her medical bills–we will never let her be homeless or lack the basic necessities of life.  We will support her with our love.  We will encourage her with our faith. 

In the struggles of making these kinds of decisions–there is humor.  We have to have the eyes to see it.  There are little joys in each day that keep me going.  I continue to enjoy my trio animals.  Tickie and Rudy, the dogs keep us in stitches.  Sam, our cat, has to be where they are at all times.  Sometimes, the poor guy has navigational problems and we have to help him find his friends.  My grandsons are also another real source of joy in the midst of these days of agony.  Having the responsibility of taking care of them is a real God send.  It is always healthy to have many kinds of responsibilities in the midst of life’s trials.

I’ve also gotten two new piano students in the month of January.  I’m working with a 35  year old who is just now starting college.  I’m also working with a 68 year old retired woman who just bought a piano.  She had band in high school and now wants to learn to play the piano.  I thank the Lord for giving me  such a full life.  Jim and I also have started attending the cancer support group in our area.  They are a lively bunch and laugh a great deal.  I look forward to getting to know each person in the group in a better way.

Yes, there is agony in love.  Love never has a time table or a finish line.  A child turning 18 is never a cut off line.  We will continue to love and cherish our children as long as we live.  Yet, we also know that we can’t make our children’s decisions.  That would be a sick kind of love.  Thus, we walk with our children and support them in the decisions that they make.  Ultimately, we have to put our children in God’s hands. 

I’ll be keeping up Maria’s story on my blog.  I would appreciate your prayers for her.  Thanks!

May God bless each of you!




17 responses

1 02 2008

Mom, I also share in your anguish over Maria. She is constanly on my heart. Thanks for sharing your feelings so openly. I know that God will comfort you, me, and Maria. Love, Vera

1 02 2008

My dear friend Nichole. Your words are so inspiring. Your wisdom so profound. I will pray for you, your daughter Maria and for your family. You know…. sometimes I wish I could stretch my arms through the laptop screen and just give a hug to the person on the other side…. this is one such moment.. ♥

Spillay xx

2 02 2008


Your opening words remind me of something that happened to us about 25 years ago.

My wife was shopping in our town centre with our two children in the pram. A friend of our parents looked into the pram at our “babies”. The friend then came out with a remark that puzzled my wife at the time but later we came to realise the wisdom of it.

“Small children, small problems. Big children, big problems. And it never stops.”

I can feel the worry and agony that is troubling you.

Some years ago my wife found a tiny lump and went to the doctor. His reaction was that it was probably nothing to worry about.

However he said my wife ought to have an xray just in case. A radiographer who specialised in breast cancer was given the films to review and she confirmed that the lump was nothing to worry about. But there was a different area that she was thought were suspicious pre-cancerous cells and should be removed as a precaution.

The small patch turned out to be beyond the pre-cancerous stage.

Agony and Love do go hand in hand. Without the love there cannot not be the strength of emotions to give rise to the agony.

I wish you well. I wish that my story had been different and could say that you had nothing to worry about.

My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

2 02 2008

Dear Spillay,
Again thanks for your support and friendship. I appreciate your empathy and your prayers.

Your friend,

2 02 2008

Dear Paul,
What a beautiful letter you have written. Your story is just one more to prove that small growths should not be ignored. I appreciate your writing so much and I hope that any who read your comment take heed if they have a small growth. I think we’ve convinced Maria that she should have her growth cut out. I’m going with Maria on Monday morning to discuss this issue with her primary care physician.


3 02 2008
David Web

I’m sorry to hear about Maria’s possibility of cancer. The health care crisis continues unabated with lots of talk and very little action.

It’s shaping up to be a very interesting year in choices this fall, and independents like myself will have a huge say in the outcome. I always wind up in states where independents are denied a vote in primaries. The logic is counterproductive and yet the rules are the rules.

Some kind of safety net needs to exist for people like Kirk and Maria, who are gambling by trying to realize the dream of self employment. Indeed, it seems people are penalized for trying to be self perpetuating and self sustaining. It’s also absurd that anyone working indirectly for the Federal Government should not have coverage of some kind, even if it’s part time work.

It’s great you have almost daily interaction with your Grandchildren, Mawcaw. They are fortunate to have you and Pawcaw in their lives as well.

One can only wonder what their lives will be like fifty years from now as the planet hurdles toward globalism amidst the chaos and troubles that abound. A proper education will be more important than ever for their generation.

I don’t think I ever recall a drought in Kentucky in the many years I lived there. It is fairly common out here in semi-arid Colorado. We are just coming out of a multi-year drought in the last couple of years. The water battles out here are legendary, with every drop accounted for and shared with other States that have Federal rights to Colorado River water. There was a bumper crop of winter wheat in 2007, a boon for dryland farmers. There has been a lot of snow this winter as well, which bodes well for the 2008 crop. Food and water will become more and more expensive as the years wear on.

Keep battling Nichole. I know how tough you are, and your story in inspirational to me. God is with us in spite of ourselves.

Little Brother.

3 02 2008
David Web

I guess my other comment is lost in cyber space. This is just a note to let you know I’m still reading.

Little Brother

3 02 2008
Brent WC

Sorry Sis, my other comment seems to be lost in cyber-space. Hang in there Nichole. I’m sorry you have a new worry with Maria. I hope she is not really sick as you have been.

It’s good you spend time with your Grandchildren. They are fortunate to have you Mawcaw, and Pawcaw in their lives as well.

Little Brother

3 02 2008

Dear Little brother,
You are so right that people trying to start their own business should have a better safty net. Sometimes I get envious of my friends in the Uk who have national health insurance. I know there are positives and negatives with national health insurance. However, two of my blog acquaintances from England have had the opportunity to have , I believe, free cancer treatments for their spouses. I could be wrong. But that is my understanding. We can’t be bitter though. Somehow there will be a way for Kirk and Maria and others like them. Thanks again for all of your comments today. I appreciate your support so much.


6 02 2008

Hi Nichole
I saw this post whilst travelling last week, and it made me think. I’m glad that others here have echoed my thoughts then before I had the chance to put pen to paper.

I can relate to your perspective quite well – some of my more distant family members have faced problems like these in recent years and I have wondered whether I should tell them what I have learned already (if there’s any doubt, go to the Royal Marsden in London, just to be sure you’re getting the right advice) or if I should let them take the easy route of hoping that everything will be fine, either by ignoring it (as many folk are naturally inclined to do) or by following it up at a non-specialist local unit.

Finally I’ve come round to the point where it’s best to pass on a view, and then be prepared to back off and let people make their own choices, as best you can. At least you know then that you tried your best.

As for health care, I recall that this has been a hot political issue in the US for some years, and let’s hope this is one thing which might get fixed through your current election process.

You mention how blessed we all are here in the UK with free health cover through the National Health Service. People complain about the standards, and occasionally about waiting times, but one aspect we never have to complain about is the cost, and we are very lucky there. And although we looked into private care when Jenny was ill, in fact for anything more than minor ailments, and certainly for all cancer services, private insurers refer their patients to the NHS anyway.

These treatments are very expensive, but you are right that there are some things which are just not worth messing around with. I’m glad that Maria is inclined to look more closely into her test results.

All best wishes from London. Spirits up.

6 02 2008

You and Maria are in our prayers. I know that when something happens to our children, it would be easier to take it on ourselves (my son has tramtic head injury x 2), but it is not for us to do that. My heart goes out to all of you and it is my hope that your surgeon would make a way to have this cyst or tumor taken out ASAP…your family history places eveything on the line. I understand about the trucking business. My husband and I owned several, we also lost everything because of all of the repairs…I suppose that things are hard in your side of KY when it comes to jobs, but for Maria’s sake, hold your nose and jump in. I understand about unpaid medical bills. I don’t know if I can live long enough to pay off what wasn’t covered by the insurance, but my attitude is that they all can get in line and wait until I can pay….not the attitude that I was taught, but it is the one that I am left with because of the crazy business called healthcare….My heart goes out to you and your family….Hang on, God does make a way…

6 02 2008

It’s good to hear from you. I wasn’t exactly sure if I was correct that the UK has national health insurance. Thanks for letting me know. You mentioned that folks complain about it and the long waits but it is wonderful that this health insurance is available.

Maria has a date set with my surgeon. She knows with the thick history we have that it can’t be ignored.

I liked reading how you have come to realize that it is better to go ahead and give one’s viewpoint and then stand back. That is all we can do.

Thanks again for your support,

6 02 2008

I appreciate your prayers and advice. I was especially interested that you and husband have been through disappointments with your trucking business. I’m sure that you have tremendous experience with dealing with paying medical bills. It helps me to know that you have walked a difficult path and you seem to be handling the stress. I appreciate your comment very much.


7 02 2008

Thanks for you kind words about my experience and you are right, the journey of the past 5 years has been a tough one. It was only 2 years after loosing in the trucking business that my husband was diagnosed with cancer. We were grateful that he worked for a trucking company that offered insurance, but the policy was a “bare bones” policy and it leaves a lot outstanding for us to pay. He has survived long enough now (you have to survive two years before Medicare kicks in) for Medicare and that is a total nightmare. Because we paid for COBRA out of his disability benefit, he is automaticly eligible for supplimental insurance without having to answer any health questions. This insurance will pay for what Medicare doesn’t pay for and Medicare has been the most frustrating thing that I have encountered so far in this insurance mess….Your daughter, Maria, may find financial help by going to the hospital and finding if they have charitible programs. They may also qualify for state assistance if their net income is low enough. In trucking with repairs, it isn’t hard to find yourself in the red more than in the black….even if there is no help, Maria must go ahead with this process and believe me there is strength from operating from a negative position…you just have to be a little tough and tell the collectors to get in line. They can been worse than pit bulls, but when it comes to getting what my husband needs, I can be a bit of a pit myself…

7 02 2008

Thank you for giving me a few more helpful details. She has already tried the state for other bills and does not qualify. Someone else was telling us about grants. Maria is a very detailed and assertive person. I think once she gets over this shock to her system–she will pursue the grant idea. I really appreciate your input on my website. I got a laugh out of your saying that you can be a bit of a pitbull. Sometimes we have to do that in order to survive with the medical bills.


10 02 2008

Hi Nichole,

Roads brought up the same dilemma that I have had, what and how much to say.

After all “we” are not medical experts. There are numerous medical web sites (UK and US based) that set out to provide details of diagnosis, tests and treatments.
However sometimes it can be useful to put these into a personal context.
One thing that worries me is to come out with information that the reader did not expect or want to see – “Too much information”!

With “The Price of Love” we get a beautifully narrated telling of everyday life and Roads journey with Jenny and one expects to find medical information and comments mixed together into the story.

When my dearest love was in the last couple of years of her journey, she did not want to know what was likely to occur, once almost telling the consultant that she did not wish to know and did not think that certain tests were worthwhile at that time. She also asked me not to do any research and “what will be, will be”. She was also reserved in what she told other people.

However afterwards looking back I thought that with a bit more knowledge the journey might have been a little easier and the odd diversion into problems might have been avoided.

When a few months later it was my turn with Prostate Cancer I had to do it differently, although in a way I had more background information to start with.

With my love I had been with her for every visit to the hospitals for consultations, tests and treatments and we could talk over what was said as she could not always remember what had been said.

With mine I did not have my love to talk over what had happened, although I was sure that she was with me “in spirit” and watching over me. I had to get information from whatever source I could so I could put into context what I remembered of the conversations. The more information that I could find the better. I had to make value judgements about the source and apply appropriate weighting to the material that was there. Actually my consultants advised me to do just that and not just take their word for it.

The consultants were aware of my recent experiences and found that I already had knowledge of the various tests and terms that were mentioned.

So there are the two sides of the dilemma and different people will have different views. I wonder how much the view changes with the stage of the journey. One thing I did find on the journey is that every case is individual and behaves differently.

Wow this is a long comment !

I have you both in my thoughts and prayers. I am glad that the recent tornadoes (I saw some information on the BBC website) did not add to your problems.
We get tornadoes in the UK as well but fortunately just tiny ones.

10 02 2008

I just got back from a long day in Tennessee where I attend church. I was delight to see that you wrote again. I think you are so right that each person has a right to go down their cancer journey in their own unique way.

I personally want to know everything I can. I like to ask questions and do research. Hopefully, I would never push someone against their will.

I met to comment on your prostate cancer the last time I emailed you. I’m so I was remiss in that. I’m sorry you had to walk that alone. I trust you are doing well now.

Yes, the storms hit hard –even in my own county. But I live in the city. We were very much spared. Thanks so much for your prayers.


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