365 days

What does one say when commemorating a cancer diagnosis?  Calling it an anniversary makes it sound like something to celebrate.  Who knows? And then, who cares?

Exactly 365 days ago, at 16:00 on Christmas Eve 2008, we were told that Boeta had cancer.  My memory of that day is crystal clear on some points and completely missing on some others.

I recall very clearly that we were sitting in the waiting area of the radiologists in Panorama MC (Durbanville MC doesn’t do CTs under general anaesthetic).  I know that Boeta played with large building blocks that they have there.  I remember that the anaethetist appeared to be very comfortable around children (little did I know that Elizna’s cell number would be on my phone before long).  I know that Wouter and I were sitting outside the CT scanner on adjacent chairs and that we didn’t talk a lot.  I know that I sent a message to Sandi, telling her that we are waiting and asking her to post on BN.  I remember walking up and down, and I remember asking the CT technician if he saw something and him telling me that they will have to analyse it first.  He told me later that it was very obvious and that he was grateful that he wouldn’t have to break the news to us.

I remember Elizna fussing around Boeta when they were done and he was waking up.  She asked me what symptoms he had and wished us luck.  I thought she a nice person.  I only realised later that she knew what was happening and what we were up against.

I remember that Boeta was very fussy on our way back to Durbanville MC.  We were driving in my car, a red Mercedes A160 that Boeta called (and still calls) Lightning McQueen (after the movie Cars).  I don’t recall walking into the hospital. 

What I remember the clearest is Etienne Bruwer walking into our room and saying “Dis slegte nuus” (It is bad news).  The next while I can remember the images of, but not the words.  Does that make sense?  I know Wouter and Etienne were talking.  Etienne was standing with his back to the door, I stood facing him and Wouter stood on my right.  Boeta was lying in bed watching Noddy.  I can’t recall being told it was cancer.  I can’t recall anything else of what Etienne said.  But I clearly remember him telling us that he just had to check something.  He stood across the hall with his back to us, apparently fussing with some papers but obviously trying to get his composure back.  Then he came back and handed us an envelope with the name of the oncologist we had to go and see the next day at 09:00.  Christmas Day.  My 33rd birthday.  I saw that he wrote “Cristina Stefan” and thought he misspelled her name.

I know that I spoke to Tatiana soon after hearing.  I stood in the room opposite Boeta’s and the two of us cried over the phone.  I know that I sent a message to my parents, just saying “Dit is kanker” (It is cancer).  I must’ve told Neels and Verna too, because I remember them arriving, looking as shell-shocked as we felt.

I know Wouter drove Boeta to my parents’ house and I drove on my own.  I know I was crying all the way.  I don’t recall anything about arriving at my parents’.  I do remember that Boeta was so very tired.  Within a day he went from apparently healthy to obviously sick.  He looked like a cancer patient and our hearts were in pieces.  For months he looked forward to Santa bringing him a certain Lightning McQueen car.  It was the first year that he had some understanding of Christmas and we had to fake good cheer and do the Christmas / gifts / smile thing.  He was so exhausted that he opened the car and then sat on a chair holding it.  He didn’t even shake it once to hear it say “Speed.  I am speed”.

At some stage during the day Wouter’s parents and his brother arrived.  I am very vague on that.  I know they were there but I can’t remember their arrival, what they said or did, or anything else.  They drove back to Pringle Bay (where we were supposed to be for Christmas) later, to where the rest of the family were waiting.  My mom says she didn’t realise how bad it was until Japie (Wouter’s brother and a doctor) picked up the envelope with the CT photos, slid the photo sheet out and almost immediately pushed it back.  It was that obvious to a trained eye.

I do recall searching for Wouter all the time – he would go looking for solitude and I would find him in the quietest spot.  I sat next to him and we didn’t speak, except for Wouter looking at me fiercely and declaring that we would get through this.

I cried so much that day.

We slept at my parents’ that night.  They realised that it would be better for us to be looked after.  Woutertjie slept on a floor bed next to us.  I lay awake most of the night staring at his silhouette in the darkness, crying and praying like never before in my life.  And I remember waking up in the night to hear Wouter sob next to me. 

If you told me  on the 24th of December 2008 that in 365 days’ time I would consider the past year as the most blessed year of our lives I probably definitely would’ve slapped you until you sobered up.  And yet here we are, and I do. 

This year has taught us to live in total dependence on God.  It taught us that everything is secondary to family and love and health and good friends.  It has shown us that our friends are gifts from heaven.  It reminded us to be utterly humble and eternally grateful for the Blessings that are bestowed upon us.  Through the grace of God our marriage came through this stronger.  Our children are healthy, Woutertjie has been free of cancer for the past 8 months and they adore each other. 

What more could we ever ask for?

Today was quite hard on me.  I kept having flash backs.  But as usual God gets His message across if one just keeps quiet long enough to listen.  I am leaving you with my lesson for today.  Don’t get hung up on the past.  Reach for what lies ahead.

… Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.    –    Philippians 3:13-14


7 Responses

  1. I am crying with you and for you, Suzanne and Wouter.
    You guys have made it through the year. Many thought that impossible, and yet here you all are.
    You are going to look back next Christmas and realise just how strong you are.

  2. Many blessings — I am always amazind by your faith and strength. I hope the coming year has as many blessings from God for you.

  3. Ironically enough those exact words, “it is cancer”, were all I said also when I spoke to my sister in law and mom immediately after Ethans diagnosis. I guess there’s no other way to say it really… And as we reflect upon this day, I give thanks for how far we have come, all of our families, and the lasting friendships we’ve made through this experience….in this, our whole new world :).

  4. Soli deo gloria!

  5. Wishing you al a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that is full of health and hope and happiness and for Our Lord to continue working His miracle in your Wouter! God bless love Mark Samm Deqlan Logan

  6. Ek kan onthou toe ons terug gekeer het na Kersfees verlede jaar hoe ek gelees het van Woutertjie op BN. Daar was redelik baie posts oor hom, en ek moes gaan search om vas te stel wat aangaan. Al wat ek van Wouter en Carien kon onthou was die kerskaartjie wat jy gestuur het, en ek het nog gedink hoeveel moeite jy daarin moes ploeg.

    Nou ‘n jaar later voel dit of ek jou ken, alhoewel ons mekaar net eenkeer ontmoet het. Tog het ek soveel trane gestort hierdie jaar oor julle. Weereens vandag het ek myself tot snikke gehuil, maar tog is dit ‘n goeie huil.

    Byt vas my vriendin!!!! Dit is ‘n lang stryd, maar weet julle is nie alleen nie!!!!


  7. Much love… in my-lippies-kind I have had the blessing of seeing a miracle with my own eyes. May the year ahead continue to be miraculous… and mighty!
    X 0 X 0 X

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