Visitors Galore

This entry is part 10 in the series Victory in the Valley

—Victory in the Valley – Chapter 9—

Start at the beginning of the story

Now read on . . .

NoticeVisitor from Reach for Recovery

Shortly after breakfast the next day, Beulah, a lady from Reach for Recovery,came to visit. This group is associated with the National Cancer Association, and their goal is to help breast cancer patients.

Reach for Recovery in South Africa is a wonderful resource for women with breast cancer. Click To Tweet

Beula brought me several unusual gifts. Two patterned cotton bags with long handles enclosed the bottles from my drains. When I got out of bed, I could easily carry my “shopping bags”, as the staff referred to my drains. Beula also brought a small square of sponge rubber. She encouraged me to keep it in my left hand at all times and pump it regularly.

“The reason for this is two-fold.” She squeezed the sponge as a demonstration. “Firstly, it will give your arm muscles a little exercise. Secondly, it acts as a stress reliever.”

How did squeezing a piece of rubber bring relief from stress?

Reaching out to the family

Beula handed me many pamphlets about my disease, including two attractive booklets. The first one was addressed to my husband and began Your wife has just had an operation for cancer. . . 

She had? 

The second one was for my daughter. The booklet started the same way: Your mother had just had an operation for cancer . . .  Beula didn’t know Debbie was in the Amazon Jungle and would only get the booklet in several years time. They had nothing for my sons, but I encouraged them to read the one for Debbie as they too had to watch out for symptoms of breast cancer.

Men can also get breast cancer, especially if their mother had it. They should do monthly breast examinations. Click To Tweet

The gift of hope

The greatest gift Beulah brought me was hope.

“I had a Radical Mastectomy many years ago” she assured me confidently. She looked strong. She looked active. She looked well. “All they ask for is a year of your life,” she said, smiling. “Give them that year. Do all they ask of you, and after the year is over you will have your life back.”

A year? I had allowed them two weeks! 

I was touched the Lord chose to send me Beulah. She was Jewish. My Saviour was Jewish. I couldn’t do this without Him, and I felt as if Beulah had come to represent Him. My eyes stung with tears as I saw the Lord’s love in action.  

Visit from the physiotherapist

The pain from the operation was nothing like as bad as I expected. The worse time of the day was when the Physiotherapist paid me a visit. She showed her disapproval the first time she looked at my sling.

“Dr. Prinsloo again! This makes for massive problems when you try to move your arm later on. Unfortunately, we dare not discard the sling, but please move your arm as much as you can.” Move my arm? She had to be joking. She released the strap for a few minutes and got me to do a few passive exercises. The pain! I gave grateful thanks to the Lord for a surgeon with whom no one would willingly disagree—and I gave thanks for the sling which kept my arm stationary.

By the time lunch was over, I was exhausted. My night’s sleep had been fitful, and I was woken and sent off to bath while it was still dark. To bath! How was I supposed to bath with a sling strapped snugly to my body and two drains coming out of my chest? For the first day of many, I contented myself with a one-handed sponge bath.

It had been a long morning, punctuated with visits from members of my new team: the physiotherapist, Beulah, Dr. Prinsloo, my General Practitioner. Nurses made the bed, re-made the bed, emptied my drains, took my temperature, and generally moved me each time I got comfortable.

Visitors from all over

And then there were the visitors.

A large notice stood at the entrance to the ward. Strictly No Visitors Will Be Allowed Outside of Visiting Hours.

 It appeared our congregation had a problem with reading. Throughout the day a constant stream of concerned visitors arrived at my bed. Because they were coming to see “Sr. Corder,” the staff was instructed to allow them in. After a few days of this, I actually asked my friend, Ria, to enforce the rules, as I felt guilty. None of the other ladies were afforded this privilege. Besides, I needed some rest.

I knew nothing about the other patients in the ward, nor they about me, but I was too tired to care. There seemed no time for conversation. A nurse gave me an injection for pain. Visiting Time was an hour away.

Hospital visiting hours should be adhered to. Patients need their rest. Click To Tweet

On my slow walk back from the toilet I made a decision. No one was to wake me!

patientsleeping

image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“If anyone comes to see me, please tell them I have died and gone to Heaven,” I announced to the nurse and all the patients, using a common family expression. Ignoring the sudden silence, I eased myself into bed and hung my drains back on their brackets. “I’ll be back in time for visiting,” I added to the startled occupants of the room, and I pulled the sheet over my head in an attempt to dull the light.

I didn’t think of the significance of a sheet over a person’s head in hospital. Nor did it occur to me that this comment, although often used in our home, was not common. I was just so very tired.

The Rejected Visitor 

As I faded from the ward and its noise, I became aware of a presence next to the bed. Not another visitor! I pretended to be asleep. Someone gently stroked my shoulder through the bedspread. Go Away! The sheet was gently lowered from my face. Indignantly, my eyes shot open. I gazed into the anxious eyes of a dear friend, Chris.

“Please go away. I am so tired,” I mumbled. The injection took effect and I fell asleep.

Poor Chris! He lived far out of town, and he had traveled miles to come and visit me, and I did this to him! He took it in good spirits, however, and never let me forget, “When certain people came to visit, you just sent them away!”

When I awoke, visitors were streaming in. No one, not even the nurses, had dared to interfere with my brief sojourn in Heaven!

After visiting hour, as I made my way to the bathroom, one of the patients nodded at my sling and said, “What’s wrong with your arm? Did you break it?”.

“Oh, my arm’s fine,” I said. “I have Breast Cancer.”

A bond grows between the patients 

The stunned silence following my disclosure broke as, one by one, ladies started to share. It seemed that they all knew someone with Breast Cancer. One by one they shared their own diagnoses. They showed an interest in each other. From that moment on, we were like a family.

At suppertime that evening, Sheila, recovering from major abdominal surgery, hobbled across to my bed to cut up my meat when she saw my one-handed struggle. She took over this responsibility for the rest of my stay in the hospital. Together, we watched one another’s I.V. drips. We gave messages to visitors when the patient was away for tests or in the bathroom. Those of us who were able to walk filled the water jugs of those who couldn’t. We shared chocolates and biscuits. We talked about our families. A bond grew between us.

One night, a new patient became delirious after surgery. Surrounded by pipes and bottles, she tried to get out of bed in the semi-dark. The entire ward was awake. I jumped awkwardly from my bed and rushed to her side carrying my drains. Isabelle from across the way joined me, towing her drip-stand. Between us, we managed to keep the woman from falling while the other patients rang their bells for help.

My short trip to Heaven had accomplished more than just a rest for me.

Next Chapter of Victory in the Valley

NOTE:
Most of these events occurred during 1997 and 1998. 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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