Thursday, we finished 90 minutes worth of interviews with the Stanford Transplant Oncologist and his nurse coordinator. It was a grueling process full of statistics, biology lessons and timetables that seemed hard to track. Fortunately there was a patient handbook given to each transplant candidate. I’ve read it thoroughly four times since that appointment just to remember what was covered.
Now, here, back at the Stanford Cancer Center, it was time to interview with a social worker who would presumably sign off on the mental verity of the interviewee; A 62 year old pastor with high blood pressure and a history of depression. I also have cancer in more than 70% of my body’s bone marrow. The social worker was all of 27 with skinny jeans and capezios. She could be one of my son’s most recent love interests gathering from what I’ve seen of his choices. I felt a bit flustered by someone so young making such tantamount decisions on my mental stability. My unhinging were the capezios, I’ll admit.
She asked if I understood the condition I was in, in other words, did I understand the decision required about a bone marrow transplant. In my best academic, condescending tone I summarized the details of Myeloma and the state of the standards of care that are currently guiding the treatment. Nailed it.
She pushed in more intimately. “I see you have had a history of depression. Can you tell me about that.” I avoided the details of living through a marital infidelity and the unrelenting agony of divorce and chose to summarize the biology. “My main symptom of depression has always been an fitful sleep pattern which leaves me awake at 230 AM and unable to sleep until morning. The daily fatigue is difficult. I use anti-depressants to help even out that sleep pattern.” Ok, dealt with the hard question. I’m still in the running.
She wrote a few notes and then moved in with a professional skill I now appreciate. “So tell me how you feel about fighting this cancer.”
I paused and said the first thing that came to mind, “Well, it’s really been a test of my faith.”
What had my faith included? Frankly, the joy that had been found in marrying Meg a year previous. For ten years I had served the congregation in Oakmont as a single pastor. I had been appreciative of their open minded willingness to allow me to serve as a divorced father of three. It was a big leap of faith for them to trust my stability and I have always been grateful.
But I felt I had paid my dues. Single and out of ministry for five years. Single and in pastoral work for almost ten. Finally a new light had spilled into my life in the form of this beautiful, radiant woman of God, Meg Gaucher.
Unfortunately, the were some early problems that beset our marriage. My bad back was so painful, I couldn’t in my best state, help her drive her belongings from Pennsylvania out to Santa Rosa. My congregation and friends held back their confusion but you could tell they were asking, “what kind of man does that to his new wife?” Her arrival didn’t make things easier. My back pain increased as we moved furniture, made love or walked long hikes. Not a great way to start.
So the social worker’s question had touched a nerve. I had been married for a year and my wife had been my nurse for eight of those months. It has rocked my faith.
That’s when the tears began. They really haven’t stopped in the past two days. Even though Meg insists it’s her deepest pleasure and yet clearly not what she wanted, she’s good to go with whatever I need. So now that kind of love makes me cry all the more.