Coram Deo ~

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The Best of Times; the Worst of Times…. A Caregiver’s Story by Don Lusk PART II

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In January 2016, Angie was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia after having undergone treatment and surgery for the Breast cancer. Her treatment at Northwestern was about six weeks long. This treatment was followed by a stem cell transplant in April 2016 which was another 3 plus weeks.    Her doctors were fairly optimistic as she responded well to the transplant and we felt that our journey on the “worst of times” road was finally winding down. In fact, we were given permission to travel to our home in Barbados to visit her mum & other family.  This gave us a much-needed reprieve; AND we began to strategically plan our next steps in life…, which included my early retirement.

As we began to make the best of this smooth path on the “best of times” road, Friends, family and others celebrated with us!!  We traveled to visit my older brother who celebrated his retirement after 38 years in education; we attended the wedding of my best man in California; we had friends from England visit us in Bloomington in September 2016, where we began planning a couples’ tour of Australia & New Zealand in summer of 2017 after my planned retirement.

This new embarkment on the “best of times” journey was interrupted again, with the news of a recurrence of the breast cancer in January 2017.….  Another detour on the “worst of times” road.

Instead of Australia / New Zealand trip, we again journeyed to Barbados in January 2017, where those same nursing school colleagues and friends soon arrived.  Having received the “latest bad’ news of another recurrence, we decided to celebrate the time we had left.  We were determined to make the best of these worst of times.

During this last visit to Barbados, Angela was the gracious hostess as usual, mustering up energy from somewhere…., cooking for our guests, and touring the island with friends (on days when she felt like it).  On other days, her friends and colleagues provided much needed “company” and companionship.

Accepting that others can and are willing to help you in the caregiver’s role was foreign to me.  This, however became a valuable treasure for me during Angie’s last days in late April of 2017.

After returning to Bloomington in February 2017, we re-entered the road of “worst of times” once again….where the pavement was as ‘uneven’ and as rough as it could get.  The news of treatment options seemed grim.  After many days of consultation, a plan was established by her doctors at Northwestern, to treat this latest bout of cancer with as much vigor as could be tolerated.

Angela’s courage and determination was amazing!!  However, I watched as the glimmer in her eyes began to slowly fade after more and more bad news.  It was then that Angie declared to me… “I am done fighting cancer…  I just can’t do it anymore.”  I asked her one question…”Are you giving up?” She responded, “No, I’ve not given up; but I’ve just given out.”  With the same positiveness that she fought this dreaded disease; she faced her mortality like a champion standing strong against this overpowering foe, with unmeasured strength.

She was the one who insisted that Hospice Care be contacted…., She was the one who said..… “we are not stopping… we are just going to take a break so that you and I can both get some rest.”

I immediately felt as if the wheels had come off our vehicle.   However, I remembered that many months before, we talked of her life and planned for this day.  All of this was being done as the British would say….with a “stiff upper lip,” although my desire was to curl up and never see the light of day again.  However, she encouraged me… She said “fight on Don…., you are a man of God.  God is with us…. There is no need to fear.”

Here she faced the end of her life with such grace and dignity… ALL while thinking of me….; making this journey on the ‘worst of times’ one of the ‘best of times’ because I know now… she is at rest.

Angie’s earthly journey on the road called ‘worst of times’ ended at 3:10 am on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 with me by her side.  She is now enjoying the “Best of Times” with our Lord.

My two adult daughters and I, along with my pastor traveled to Barbados to bury Angie in her homeland….on her native soil, so that mum could say her final good-bye.

Because of Angie’s courage, I was able to speak at her funeral in Barbados and her memorial service here in Normal…  and;

Because I am confident that I shall see her again; I did not say good-bye… but rather “good-night.”

As a recent tribute to Angela, my two daughters Summer (27), Shannon (35) and I took a trip to England, France & Scotland.  Our goal was to visit those places where Angie had either lived, worked or gone to school.  We had planned to donate her nursing pin back to the Florence Nightingale Museum at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London ~ but at the last minute, our youngest daughter decided that she wanted to keep the pin as one additional keepsake of her mom.

IN CLOSING….. I will play on the words of Dickens….

  1. YES… “It was the WORST of times; BUT, we made the BEST of those times.
  2. It was the age of wisdom … We agree with 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 “For some demanded signs and seek wisdom,, but we preach Christ crucified which is a stumbling block to some, But to those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God”.
  3. For us, It was NOT the age of foolishness … Why? Because 1 Corinthians 1: 25 states “For foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
  4. We certainly agreed that It was the season of Light for us…… IT was NOT the season of darkness. Our assurance is found in 1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you that God is light, and in HIM, there is no darkness”.
  5. It was the spring of hope. In Psalm 33:20-21 we find these words: “Our souls wait for the Lord, HE is our hope and our shield. For our heart is glad in HIM, because we trust in HIS holy name”.
  6. It was NOT the winter of despair … Why? Because we read in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “So we do not despair or lose heart… though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day”.
  7. We HAVE everything before us.. we agreed as Deuteronomy 31:8 states: ”The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” 

‘The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf…Deuteronomy 1:30

 Yes… it was the best of times; it was the worst of times; but in the MIDST of the “worst of Times”….. we now can say…Angie is having the “best of times.”

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

One thought on “The Best of Times; the Worst of Times…. A Caregiver’s Story by Don Lusk PART II

  1. Bill,
    Thanks to you and Tammy for giving me this forum. I have had a significant number of hits on my FB page where people have shared the story. I am grateful for your friendship.

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