Getting Out the News

This entry is part 6 in the series Victory in the Valley

—Victory in the Valley – Chapter 5—

Start at the beginning of the story

Now read on . . . 

Plane against beautiful sky

Image courtesy of khunaspix at

The time had come to let my adult children know.

Reaction from elder son

“Steve…” I gripped the telephone receiver tightly. My quiet elder son, so like his father, lived away from home for work reasons, although we saw him most weekends. “Steve, I went for those tests today.” There was an ominous silence at the other end of the phone. “I would have preferred to tell you this to your face Steve, but you need to know. I have Cancer.” The silence continued while I wondered what he was thinking. There’s no easy way to break this news!

“So what now?”

“I have to have surgery. But the radiologist said he doesn’t think they’ll get it all out.” I don’t know how this mysterious “they” crept into the conversation. Over the months to follow this became a regular expression. They recommended certain treatment. They said when I could mix with people or if I had to stay home. They threatened to rule our lives.

Another few moments of silence.

Then, “Well that’s their problem Mum isn’t it? We know that they can—and will—get it all out. How they do it is their problem. That they will succeed is ours. We have incredible prayer power at our disposal. We will call it up and get people praying. You’ll be fine!” His absolute confidence encouraged me, although deep down I wondered if he really understood what I had said.

“I’ll come over tomorrow Mum,” he continued, “and we can discuss this at more length. By then you’ll have seen the surgeon and we’ll know what our next step is.” As I hung up the phone I had the strangest feeling that Steve had taken control! And Steve had decided I would live!

Reaction from younger son

A few minutes later, David, our youngest, hyperactive, cheery redhead, arrived home from College. It didn’t strike me at the time, but he didn’t bounce in with his normal exuberance. He threw his kit-bag into his bedroom and came up to me where I sat at the computer, trying to concentrate on e-mails.

“So?” he greeted me. “How did the tests go?”

I looked at him in surprise. I hadn’t expected him to remember. I opened my mouth—there’s no easy way—and out it tumbled.

“David, I’ve got Cancer.”

He started as if I had hit him. Then he yanked me from my seat and hugged me until it hurt.

“Mum . . .” he whispered tensely into my ear. “It’s gonna be okay, see? We’re gonna fight this thing!” He rubbed his cheek against mine as he added, “I knew. This morning. I guess the Lord showed me. I just knew.”

I didn’t recognize it at the time; neither did he. But I had just witnessed the first of many miracles to come out of this frightening diagnosis. David, our fiery redhead who lived in an almost constant state of war with his parents and other authority figures, had just become a man. And what a lovely man at that. From then on we witnessed a compassion, a gentleness, a love, that we had only had fleeting glimpses of during his formative years. 

Family Conference

It was Saturday afternoon. Rob and the two boys were gathered with me in our family room.

“Have you told Debs yet?” Steve asked. My operation was scheduled for Monday. And no, I hadn’t told my daughter. The week had flown past in a turmoil of people. The visit to the surgeon showed him to be both surprised and angry at the diagnosis. The aspirated fluid had come back negative as he expected. The small lump I had felt was indeed benign (non-malignant). The Lord used it to get my attention. Even once this gifted surgeon knew the tumor was there, he still could not feel it with his extra-sensitive and well-trained fingers.

“Oh, I’ll get it out! he said in response to my question. “I just don’t know how much of you I will have to take with it or how far it has spread.”

The staff at the laboratory where I worked came alongside me in shocked disbelief. They all assured me I was in their prayers.

“I guess I’ll be off for a couple of weeks,” I told them. “But if I am up to it I’ll be back sooner.” Little did I know!

Other family members and close friends reacted in distress at the news. Yet all the time I heard the message, “We’re praying . . . You’ll be fine . . . We’ll beat this!”

That weekend we had a series of meetings at the Church, and the news somehow got out to the leadership. One by one, couple by couple, they came round to see us. They talked. They listened. They asked. They prayed. Above all, they loved.

I arranged for a relief organist to take my place the first Sunday after surgery, and to be on “stand-by” the following weekend “just in case . . .” But I knew I would be back soon.

I was as prepared for the operation as I could be. And yet . . .

“No Steve I haven’t told Debbie yet. I really think I should send her an e-mail after I am home and I can tell her I’m fine.”

“Mum . . .”

I locked eyes with my new, “I’m-in-control” elder son.

Telling my daughter

“Debs is your daughter. She has to be told. I am giving you ’till tomorrow to write to her. If you have not written by then, I will have to—but it would be far better coming from you.”

Excuse me? He gave me until tomorrow. . . ? Since when did he issue the orders? I was the parent. Orders were my role! Yet I found myself meekly submitting to his decision. Rob, like me, felt uncertain. But Stephen, our son, had made the decision for us.

Passenger plane

Image courtesy of khunaspix at

Four long months ago we had said goodbye to our first-born, Debbie, our son-in-law, Craig, and our two beloved grandchildren, Sacha, aged four years, and Llewellyn, aged two. They had left to run a school for missionary children, under the umbrella of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, in Venezuela, thousands of kilometers away. Their access to the Internet was limited, and our communication was limited to the occasional e-mail.

On the one side of the ocean, we tried to adapt to the traumatic separation from those whom we loved so dearly. On the other side, they battled to settle into a very different culture in a foreign, Spanish speaking, country. How could I now add to their burden by telling them, “I have cancer . . .”? It wasn’t fair. There is no easy way!

That night I sat at the computer and typed the most difficult letter of my life. I reluctantly sensed that Stephen was right; Debbie needed to know. I also needed to know that they were praying for me and loving me, all those kilometers away.

Yes, Debbie needed to know. I had to have the assurance all my family was praying for me, even those thousands of miles away. Click To Tweet

Now read on: Preparing for War

These events occurred between 17 and 20 years ago. 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.

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4 comments on “Getting Out the News

  1. Very beautifully and sensitively written,Shirley. Many will relate to your story and be encouraged. You were born for this moment.

    • Thank you, Val. Born for this moment? Oh my. LOL! Good to know there was a reason for that year!

  2. Powerful story, Shirl. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been, but I love seeing how God work through the pain of the situation, and especially how you are using your situation to bring healing to others all these years later.

    • Thanks for your visit, Lisa. I wrote the story years ago, but only now felt the time was right to release it as a “serial” which will become a book when it’s finished.

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