Elvis sang a song years ago called, “I Believe” which was written by James Fortune. I always loved that song especially the lyrics: “every time I hear a new born baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky then I know why I believe.” I think all of those things are miracles and I believe miracles happen every day. Some miracles are very personal. God does them just for us to let us know He is with us even in our darkest hour. During the past year of my life, as Beth battled cancer, I saw many miracles that I know were just for me. Today I begin a new series called, “Miracles Along the Way.”
When Beth was first diagnosed with endometrial cancer we interviewed a doctor at a hospital close to where we live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Beth and I, along with our daughter, Kirstyn (who is a registered nurse) went to meet with him. Neither one of us had a good feeling about the man and his approach to Beth’s diagnosis. He wanted to do the surgery robotically. After that first interview we decided we weren’t going to mess around. Our friends in the medical field always told us that if we ever had a serious health problem we should go to the University of Penn Hospital in Philadelphia. We did just that and went after the top person in the field.
We were able to get through to Dr. R. who was the Director of the Gynecological Oncology Department of U of P. Within a week we were meeting with him in person. That was miracle number one. We understood he was in high demand, of course, and to get an appointment with him that fast was certainly a blessing. He is a gifted surgeon who the nurses and doctors refer to as “the man with golden hands.” Beth’s original appointment with her OB/GYN was on October 19, 2012. That was the day they did an ultra sound and said it looked like Beth might have cancer. During our first meeting with Dr.R, just ten days later, he scheduled surgery for November 14, 2012 – miracle number two. He planned a total hysterectomy to find out exactly what was going on. Less than one month after Beth’s OB/GYN appointment, we had a world renowned cancer surgeon operating on Beth - miracle number two and those were just two of the many miracles that were about to come.
While the last three years were filled with difficult challenges, Beth really hit a rough patch in late spring of last year. I knew things were turning worse on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10th. I planned on taking Beth to a really nice brunch at one of our favorite restaurants after church. However, she woke up feeling bad and ended up staying in bed all day. I worked in the yard and came in to check on her throughout the day. She came outside around 6pm and apologized she had been in bed all day. She said she was feeling better and wanted to know if I wanted to to dinner at one of our favorite diners. I said, “yes, if you’re sure you feel good enough.” We went down and ordered breakfast for dinner. It was nothing fancy, but we were together and that was all that mattered and what made it special. I don’t think she really felt much better; I think she did it for me.
Beth mustered the strength the following week to attend Kelsey’s graduation ceremony from Messiah College. It was an incredibly special day and I am so glad Beth was able to be there along with me, Kirstyn and Cole. Kelsey always struggled in school due to a pretty serious learning disability. With the help of many tutors throughout elementary, middle and high school, she ended up graduating with honors with a degree in Social Work Needless to say, we were incredibly proud.
The following weekend Beth was experiencing a lot of abdominal pain, so we rushed her to the emergency room of our local hospital. She was admitted and at 2am she was transported by ambulance to UPenn Hospital in Philadelphia. An MRI revealed that one of Beth’s larger tumors was pressing on her ureter. They didn’t know how to treat it because surgery and radiation were too risky. They kept Beth in the hospital on pain medication for three days to make her comfortable, while her team of doctors tried to figure out what to do.
As usual, Beth kept her spirits up. She was kind to all of the nurses and doctors and everyone fell in love with her. Everywhere we went Beth Wheeler was everyone’s favorite patient. By Wednesday we were praying hard and wondering if she would ever be able to come home. The pastor of our church drove all the way down to Philadelphia to see us and to pray for Beth. The hospital is over an hour away from our home in non-rush hour traffic but well over an hour and a half during rush hour. Pastor Lee arrived downtown around 1p.m. I met him in the hospital lobby and took him up to Beth’s room. We had a really nice visit and before he left he prayed a powerful prayer asking God to touch Beth and to give the doctors wisdom.
I was supposed to fly to Milwaukee the next day to visit my then, 93-year-old mom. After our pastor left I told Beth I would call my mom and tell her I wasn’t coming. She said to wait until we saw her doctor that afternoon. About an hour later her doctor walked in the room and said, “I have good news! We have been studying the MRI and I think we can remove at least half of the tumor by draining liquid“. The doctor looked at me and asked, “how would you like to take your wife home tonight?” I said, “I would love nothing better!” Beth firmly asked, “will you tell this man to go to Milwaukee tomorrow and visit his mother?” The doctor obliged. I drove Beth home and the next morning I was on a flight to Milwaukee.
I had a wonderful visit with my mom and sister and her family. But I have to say I really missed Beth. That was the only time in the last three years we were apart. I also had a feeling in my heart that we would face many challenges in the coming days and weeks. However, on this day in the course of an hour we had gone from wondering if the end was near to jubilation because we got to go home – miracle number three. Some people would say that it was just a coincidence that our pastor came down and prayed earlier that afternoon. I don’t. I think God was saying, “I am still in control and I’m not done with Beth yet.”
My niece, Terra, once said, “Aunt Beth’s love was like a hurricane, it hit everyone in its path.” Maybe, I’ll write a book one day and let the world know about my Beth and what a good woman she was.
Thank you for reading my blog and thanks for all of your love and support!
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