Getting Back on the Beam!

This entry is part 15 in the series Victory in the Valley

—Victory in the Valley – Chapter 13—

Start at the beginning of the story

Now read on . . .


Gymnast on balance beam

Gymnastics_2015 European Championships

It was the day after we’d watched the TV show where the young gymnast fell off the balance beam. My husband suggested the message for me was to get back on the beam. He didn’t get it. I hadn’t fallen off the beam. For someone doing battle with cancer, with a poor prognosis, I was doing well.

I awoke uptight and irritable. It was one of ‘those days’! Nothing went right.

Halfway through the morning, I walked past my younger son’s bedroom. I noticed he hadn’t opened his curtains before leaving for his college. I shoved angrily at his door and stalked into the room. The door boomeranged off a pile of books on top of his bookcase and slammed back into my left arm. The handle punched me on the breast, at the exact point of the wound.

“Ow!” I wailed in agony and kicked the door. Real mature!  I lowered myself onto his bed, sobbing helplessly.

Rob came racing through the house. “What on earth’s wrong?” He sat next to me and held me while I cried and cried. All the pent-up tears and emotions of the last two weeks poured out.

“It’s going to be all right!” he assured me repeatedly. “You’ll see. We’ll get through this.”

He passed me a handkerchief.

“Come, blow your nose. You’ve got to stop this. You’ve cried enough.”

“Rob, I’m sorry, I can’t go on,” I muttered into the sodden handkerchief.

After a moment of quiet, he answered. “Shirl, the Lord is saying to you, ‘You’ve got to get back on the beam!’”


It was time for the follow-up visit to Dr. Prinsloo.

“This is really healing beautifully,” he remarked with a near smile. As he prepared to remove the clips, I attempted to hide my fear. As a result of my arm being strapped to my body for ten days, I had difficulty moving it even slightly. How would he reach the wound? Since my experience in the hospital with the wire, my pain threshold had become just about non-existent.

As the last metal clip fell into the receiver, I looked at him in amazement. “Wow! I hardly felt that.” Then I took him by surprise. “Please, may I take these home? I want to show them to my nephews.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. They need to be properly disposed of.”

“I’ll take them to the laboratory where I work and throw them into the ‘sharps’ box,’” I pleaded. “Promise!”

“See to it you do.” He folded them into a paper towel and handed the little parcel to me. “Well, you seem to be doing very well so far.” 

He explained again his reasons for doing a Quadrantectomy and not a Mastectomy. “The tumor was so deep, there was little point in taking the entire breast,” he said. “In any case, this gave a better cosmetic result.”

I jerked when I heard his next words. “Of course, there would have been less likelihood of a recurrence if I’d done a Radical Mastectomy.”

Inwardly I screamed at him, Then why, oh why didn’t you?

Outwardly I smiled. “What are the chances of a recurrence?” I made it sound like such a minor issue.


Surgeon taking notes

Image courtesy of photostock at

The doctor avoided my question and eyes, as he drew out the Histology report. He went through it with me, and I learned that the cancer was an aggressive, fast-growing type. My prognosis was not good. I noticed he didn’t say how long I had, and suddenly I didn’t want to know. I sensed that a time limit might just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

During my student nursing days, patients were sometimes given a placebo (a capsule with no medicinal effects) instead of a sleeping pill. Many times, they settled down and had a really good night’s sleep. I feared that knowing the doctor’s estimate of my life span would have the same effect. If he gave me an estimated life span it might just prove prophetic. I didn’t want statistics, I wanted to conquer Goliath.


“You are going to need a full course of radiotherapy, followed by chemotherapy.”

“Yes, you told me,” I replied, and took a deep breath. “But Dr. Prinsloo, I would like to go to Dr. Meiring.” Through my work, I had met the oncologist Dr. Prinsloo normally referred his patients to, and I didn’t like him at all. I had never met Dr. Meiring, but my sister-in-law had worked for him, and she thought he was wonderful.

“Shirl, please give Kurt a chance,” she had pleaded on the phone. “After you’ve met him you can choose to go to someone else if you like, but please give him a try. He’s a wonderful oncologist – and he’s a strong Christian man.”

A look of extreme annoyance flashed across Dr. Prinsloo’s face. He did not like patients to make suggestions. Tough! I thought. This is my life! I am taking control wherever possIble.

He reached for his script pad and started to write a referral letter.

“I am not happy about this decision,” he stated flatly. “And I want to see you regularly myself.” 

These events occurred between the years 1997-2000. I have tried to recreate events and locations as accurately as possible, but in order to maintain their anonymity, in some instances, I have changed the names and identifying characteristics of individuals and places.

Read on: Next Chapter – Operation Mobilization

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