Dealing with the Cancer Roller Coaster

This entry is part 14 in the series Victory in the Valley

—Victory in the Valley – Chapter 13—

Start at the beginning of the story

Now read on . . .


Eventually, Rob grew concerned that all my visitors were too much for me. I would chat merrily with them and then after they’d gone, I’d slump into an armchair exhausted and pale. So he introduced a compulsory “rest-time.” 

Tape RecorderImmediately after lunch, he packed me off to my bedroom like a little girl, with a tape-recorded story from the library. He closed the curtains and instructed me to lie with my eyes closed and listen to the story.

“You know I’ll never sleep.”

“That’s okay. If you don’t sleep at least you are resting.”

“But what if visitors arrive?”

“They can come back later.”

My gentle, easy-going husband had an iron will when he made a decision. And he’d made his decision.

It was really quite funny. Some days sleep came easily. I would awaken refreshed. Other days I knew I wasn’t sleeping, and eventually would decide to get up, irritated at the waste of time. But most of those times I would find the tape had reached the end, and I’d have no memory of what had happened in the story. I had slept after all. Despite my resistance, I did need that daily nap.

With my naturally hyperactive mind, I normally multi-tasked. Yet here I was, with nothing specific to do all day, but still concerned about wasting time. There was always something I wanted to do, even if it was just a game of Quest or reading a book. But, I didn’t want to sleep.


A number of friends and family members in other parts of the country phoned regularly to ask how things were going. How special it was to know that so many people across South Africa were praying. Indeed many contacts in other parts of the world were praying, as evidenced by their emails.

Often in the past, when we visited people in times of crisis the tendency was to avoid the subject. I soon noticed the same propensity with my friends. Even when we did refer to my cancer treatment, the conversation usually consisted of “How are you coping?” “Is there anything we can do to help?”

I saw the importance of learning to listen. Bless those who just let me talk; who let me explore with them the things that didn’t look good. And bless those who helped me face, and deal with, the poor prognosis; who loved me enough to let me share my fears, as well as my hopes. Outwardly I was calm. Deep down I was fighting a growing terror. I didn’t want to give in to it, nor did I cry. But I was afraid. Only Rob knew of my inner battle.


But not all friends were afraid to show their feelings.

One day, a few days after I returned from the hospital, I had a visit from Lynne, a very sweet, compassionate lady in our congregation. She was devastated by the news of my cancer and talked about it for a short while. She seemed surprised to find me perfectly composed as I related funny stories about the ward. Suddenly she got up.

“I must go! I don’t want to exhaust you. But before I leave, may I pray with you?”

“Yes of course—that would be nice, thank you.” I smiled as she came across the room to me and carefully lowered herself onto the carpet, kneeling close to my chair.

She took my hands in hers and started to pray. As she prayed, her tears started to flow. Eventually, she was unable to pray further, and rested her head on our hands and sobbed! I swallowed back giggles, which would really have been most inappropriate, as I extricated one soggy hand from the pile, and placed it gently on her hair.

“Father, I ask you to bring comfort and strength to Lynne now as she struggles to cope with my diagnosis. Help her to see that my life is in your hands. Give her the courage to face the future. Thank you, Lord!”

After seeing her to the door I went through to Rob who was sorting out supper.

“I have just prayed for Lynne.”

“Oh? Why?”

I prayed the Lord would give her the strength and courage to cope with my diagnosis and treatment.” I chuckled.

How funny, and yet how incredible. She loved me so much that she needed prayer to cope. I have often thought back to that moment and marveled at that depth of friendship and love.


A couple of days after coming home, I sat up to watch an episode of Touched by an Angel, one of my favorite TV programs. I sat with my arm in its sling, awkwardly propped on pillows.

Before long it became apparent that the story centered on a family hit by cancer.

Panic started to build inside me. I wanted to scream at Rob, Switch this off! Yet I was embarrassed at my weakness and attempted to pull myself together. I watched to the end.

Rob later admitted that he too had thought, We must switch this off, but didn’t want to draw attention to how aware he was that I was doing battle with cancer. So due to a lack of communication, the film ran its course.

Gymnast on balance beamIn the story, the family battles to come to terms with the loss of their husband and father to cancer. He was struck down in the prime of his life, and despite surgery and treatment, he died. He left behind a young teenager who was a gifted gymnast. Her dad, the girl’s main support in her gymnastic career, never missed a competition.

The story commences within a few days of his death. The young girl faces a major competition, with a good chance of winning. Her mother has never been interested in gymnastic and right now is grieving so much for her husband that she doesn’t feel it is right that her daughter goes ahead with the competition. How can she do something like this when her father has just died?

Throughout the story, Monica, an angel disguised as a gym instructor, works intensively with the girl. Finally, the big night arrives. The girl is extremely nervous but agrees to go through with the competition.

The stadium is packed to capacity. The gymnasts excel. The girl does well in each section. She faces her final test, runs out onto the arena, and vaults onto the beam. She performs a brilliant routine. Then, as she does a high somersault and lands on the beam, her foot slips. She crashes to the sawdust and lies there sobbing. All seems to be lost.

Monica appears next to her in the form of an angel and encourages her, “You’ve got to get up! Get back on the beam! You’ve got to get back on the beam!”

The girl lies there for several moments, then she stirs and slowly gets to her feet. With tears streaming down her face, she leaps back onto the beam and completes her turn with a flawless performance, to a tumultuous applause from the excited audience.


When the film finished, I felt emotionally sick.

“Why didn’t we switch it off?” I asked Rob. We usually communicate well. Reluctantly I concluded the Lord had wanted us to watch this film. “So okay—what is the Lord saying? That I’m going to die of cancer? And you guys must keep going without me?”

“No,” Rob replied slowly. “I believe God is saying, ‘You’ve got to get back on the beam! This is not the end.'”

“I’m not aware that I’ve fallen off the beam,” I retorted indignantly.

“Maybe not yet. Maybe the Lord is preparing us for something.”

I determined not to give in to the turmoil within. We had a time of prayer that God would guide us if and when the time came I fell off the beam. We went to bed.

Little did I know how soon that prayer would be answered.

Read on: Next Chapter – Back on the Beam

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.