There were many moments over the next few months when I was so full of joy that I thought I was going to burst. Just the sight of Kelly in the rocking chair in the corner of our living room, nursing Emma, each of them totally absorbed in the other, was sometimes enough to bring tears to my eyes. Kelly would look across at me with a smile and say, “Are you okay there, Poppa Masefield?” and I would nod and say, “Yes – just looking at my girls and thinking how beautiful they are”. She would smile again, and sometimes she would say, “Why don’t you play us a song or two, then?” and I would get my guitar and sing a couple of Kelly’s favourites. At times little Emma would stop nursing and twist her head around, trying to find the location of this new sound, and Kelly would laugh and say, “Getting distracted by your daddy again, eh? Well, he is a handsome guy, isn’t he?” At other times I would read to Kelly, or just sit quietly with them and watch as Emma nursed contentedly and then eventually fell asleep.
I was determined that I was not going to be an absentee dad like my own father, and so whenever I was home from work I played as full a part as I could in caring for Emma – holding her, changing her, playing with her, trying to soothe her when she was crying, walking the living room with her at night on those frequent occasions when she just would not go back to sleep after being nursed, and I knew that Kelly was exhausted and needed sleep herself. Tiredness, of course, became a regular way of life for both of us; our nights were interrupted every two or three hours by the sound of Emma’s crying, and Kelly would get her up, bring her to bed and nurse her. Sometimes they would both fall asleep again, and I would wake up a few hours later and find that there were three of us in the bed, and some instinct had prevented me from rolling over onto Emma. I had been afraid of this at first, but I very quickly discovered that I somehow knew when she was there, even if I was asleep.
“You were right”, I said to Joe after church one Sunday, “Her life right now is about eating, sleeping, and pooping. What you didn’t tell me is that all three of them are usually attended by crying!”
“Yeah, it’s kind of amazing just how penetrating that tiny voice can be!” he replied with a grin.
“I was afraid I would get cranky and bad-tempered after so many short nights, but somehow I seem to be able to get through it okay”.
“When grace is needed, grace is given”.
“That’s exactly right”.
Of course, one of the wonderful things about having a new baby in Meadowvale was the way our extended family gathered around and helped us out.
Sally had been a stay-at-home mother herself, and although she now worked part time as a bookkeeper, she made sure that she was available when we needed her help. She would often come over during the day and spend a couple of hours with Kelly and Emma, or they would go over to visit her. “Sometimes we play with Emma”, Kelly told me, “and sometimes she helps me change her, and sometimes she just watches her for an hour so I can get a few things done around the house. And sometimes”, she added ruefully, “she just tells me to go to bed for an hour and get some rest while she keeps an eye on things”.
Joe and Ellie, of course, were a big part of our lives as well. Ellie had been off work for a year with Jake, and had gone back part time just after our Emma was born, but when she was home she often brought Jake around to spend time at our place. Like them, we had decided to make godparents a part of Emma’s life, and of course we had asked Joe and Ellie to fill that role for us, as we were doing for them. So in mid-January they had stood with us in church for Emma’s dedication service, and they were just as keen to play a part in her life as we had been with Jake. Joe and I were already close friends, but during those early months of Emma’s life we became even closer, as we would compare notes about the things we were going through. Joe was a year ahead of me in parenting experience, of course, but he rarely gave unsolicited advice; we would talk about the challenges we were facing, and by the time the conversation was over, I usually felt better and had more sense of confidence that whatever my current difficulty was, I would be able to get through it.
Krista and Steve were further away, but still, Saskatoon was not that far, and despite their busy lives, they seemed to be in Meadowvale most weeks at some point. Krista was very much like Kelly in her love of children, and having a nephew and a niece in Meadowvale made it even more attractive for her to come home regularly. Also, Steve’s grandmother was ailing. She was younger than Kelly’s grandparents, but like them, she had been born in Russia; Steve was quite fond of her and tried to get up to visit her as often as he could.
One Saturday afternoon when we were all sitting around in Will and Sally’s living room, I was watching Kelly and Krista talking together while Kelly nursed Emma. Steve was sitting on the couch beside me, and I spoke quietly to him; “I think Krista loves kids just as much as Kelly does”.
“Yes, she does. We really want a family of our own, and there’s a part of her that would like to start right away. But she knows she needs to finish her doctorate first. After that…”
“Will that be in the spring, then?”
“Some time in May, if all goes well and she gets all the work done”.
“What happens after that?”
“Well, hopefully I’ll get a job with Parks Canada; I’d really love to work as a wildlife biologist in a national park”.
“Anywhere in particular?”
He shook his head; “We’d like it to be somewhere within a day or two’s drive of Meadowvale, of course, but you never know”.
One night in late February after we came home from a visit at Don and Lynda’s Kelly was sitting in the rocking chair nursing Emma, and I was doing a bit of cleaning up around the house before we went to bed. The living room was dimly lit by a single standing lamp, and Kelly looked relaxed and peaceful as she sat in the rocker with our little girl at her breast.
“Are you okay for schoolwork?” she asked me as I came into the room and sat down in my armchair beside them.
“Pretty well; I got a lot done last night”.
“You look tired”.
“I’ll sleep, when I get the chance. How about you?”
“Pretty good. I’m still feeling a little bloated”.
“Again, eh? I wonder what that’s about?”
“I don’t imagine it’s anything to worry about. Lack of exercise, maybe; my walking’s down to almost nil right now, and I used to do a mile or two a day”.
I was quiet for a moment, watching the two of them, and eventually she looked up at me and said, “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine”.
“You were pretty quiet tonight”.
“Was I? Just thinking, I suppose”.
“What’s on your mind?”
She laughed softly; “Tom Masefield, are you going to make me dig again?”
I shrugged; “I was thinking that I can’t imagine what it would be like to be going through this alone, you know? Just the two of us and Emma, with no family or friends to help”.
“No, that would be tough, although I guess some people do it”.
“I know. But your mum and dad, and Joe and Ellie and all the rest – they’ve been really good to us”.
She looked at me in silence for a moment, and then she said, “But you miss your family”.
“My mum and Becca; I think about them a lot. And Owen and Lorraine, too, although they aren’t family”.
“You wish they could be here all the time, like my folks”.
She reached out and took my hand. “Your mom and Becca do really well, just keeping in touch with us and sending us gifts for Emma. I’m glad you keep sending them photographs and little progress reports and all that”.
“It’s not the same, though”.
“No”. She looked at me for a minute, and then said, “You want to go over there again this summer, don’t you?”
“I do, but it’s crazy to think of the expense. Your truck does’t have too many more miles left in it, and we ought to be thinking about buying a house sooner or later, and…”
She shook her head. “No matter, Tom; family’s important, and Emma can travel free for a while yet. If you want to go, we’ll go”.
“I know Becca would come here, but I’m not sure my mum would be able to get away with it”.
“You mean your dad wouldn’t let her come?”
“He wouldn’t be happy, and she doesn’t usually step too far out of line with him. I don’t know if he would go so far as to try to forbid her coming”.
“Men still do that kind of thing?”
“I don’t know, Kelly. What do we really know about other people’s marriages?”
“I can only say what it looks like on the outside, and it does look to me as if sometimes he lays the law down and she agrees to go along with what he wants”.
“I guess she loves him, and she thinks their relationship is more important”.
“It’s hard to fathom sometimes, though”.
“I know what you mean”. She smiled at me and squeezed my hand; “Where did you learn to be such a gentle and loving husband?”
“Determination not to be like my dad, I suppose”.
“Well, I want you to know that I appreciate it”.
I shook my head, looking at her in the soft light of the standing lamp, one side of her face in shadow. “You are so beautiful, Kelly”, I whispered; “I’m such a lucky man”.
“And I’m a lucky girl”.
Glenn Pickering, thirty-six and single, surprised us by taking a special interest in Emma. As I said to Kelly one day, we shouldn’t have been surprised, because we knew that he loved being an uncle to his many nieces and nephews in the Pickering extended clan, and on the few occasions we had seen him with any of them, it was obvious that they loved him too.
He had dropped by our place just a few days after Emma was born, bringing us some packages of herbal tea, along with a tiny stuffed donkey for Emma. After that he got into the habit of coming over once every couple of weeks or so, usually in the early evening while one of us was still doing the dishes, and in fact it became a standing joke between us that he would pick up a towel to help out, and we would then pay him by giving him a cup of tea and a home made cookie or two. Kelly and I both enjoyed making cookies, and we usually had two or three tins of them in the cupboard above the sink.
I had wondered at first how he would feel about Kelly nursing Emma while he was in the room with us, but once again he surprised me by being totally fine with it. I had very quickly become adept at reading people’s body language when it came to nursing; some, especially older people, would quite deliberately look away, even though Kelly always covered herself discreetly with a blanket when we were in company. Glenn, however, carried on with whatever he was saying or doing without batting an eyelid, and when I asked him about it once, he made a dismissive gesture with his hand and said, “You seem to keep forgetting that I’ve got four nieces and seven nephews. Trust me, I’ve seen more nursing than most married men!”
One night after he left, while Kelly and I were getting ready for bed, I said “I’m seeing a whole different side to Glenn these days”.
“I guess so”, she replied, pulling her pyjama tee-shirt on over her head; “He’s full of surprises”.
“Yes, he is. Until these last few weeks I’ve very rarely seen him without a suit on, and I certainly never thought he’d be the sort of guy who’d enjoy rocking a sleeping baby”.
“Or picking up stuffed toys in the living room”.
“Not to mention drying the dishes”.
“He obviously likes you a lot”.
“I don’t think he comes over here just to see me”.
“No, I know, but it’s obvious he feels comfortable around you”. She climbed into bed, but as she bent I noticed her wincing a little. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, just a little soreness in my side, that’s all. Nothing to worry about; I’m probably just getting some cramps”.
“Are you sure?”
One night in the middle of March when Glenn was over at our place, he stayed a little later than usual, and after she had put Emma down to sleep Kelly made a pot of peppermint tea for us. We sat together in the comfortable chairs in the living room, listening to the winter wind howling outside the window, and then, speaking in a quiet voice, Glenn said, “I’ve got something to tell you”.
“What’s that?” asked Kelly.
“I’ve started dating Karla Finlay”.
I was surprised; “Ellie’s sister?”
“Yeah. We’re not making a big noise about it, so I’d appreciate it if you kept it to yourselves”.
“Who else knows?”
“Joe and Ellie know; Karla talked to them a couple of days ago”.
“This is a surprise, Glenn”, said Kelly; “I didn’t realize you knew Karla that well”.
“We met at Joe and Ellie’s wedding; we danced a few songs together and we got talking. I liked her, and I found out later that she liked me”.
“She works in a law office, doesn’t she?” I asked.
“Yeah, she does – actually, there are classmates of mine who work in that office. Karla’s their office administrator; apparently she’s pretty good at it, too”.
“So she lives in Saskatoon, then?” asked Kelly.
“Yes, and for now, that’s where we’re dating”.
I took a sip of my tea, cradled the mug on my lap, and said, “You’d rather not do your dating in full view of all the town gossips of Meadowvale?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Don’t get me wrong, I rather like the town gossips of Meadowvale, but I gave them way too much entertainment with the breakup of my marriage, and I’d rather not have the whole town speculating about whether or not this – this whatever it is – between Karla and me is going to work out”.
“Understood”, said Kelly. “But thank you for telling us, Glenn”.
“Well, you guys are in a different category”.
“We appreciate that, and, of course, we’re really glad for you”.
“Thanks. She’s younger than me, of course…”
“What is she now, about twenty-eight?”
“I’m sure you guys will be fine”
He nodded reflectively; “So far, so good”, he replied.
I started to get worried about Kelly toward the middle of April. Like most women, she didn’t immediately revert to her old, trim self after giving birth to Emma; she continued to carry a little extra weight around her middle, and of course her stretch marks were not going anywhere. As the weeks went by, however, she seemed to be losing weight everywhere except her middle; her face was getting thinner, she often had dark circles under her eyes, and she frequently felt sick to her stomach and bloated. She didn’t have much of an appetite and would push her plate aside after only eating half her supper, shaking her head at me and saying, “Sorry – I just can’t eat another bite”.
A couple of weeks later I began to notice her wincing with pain more frequently. “Are you okay, Kelly?” I asked her as we were doing the dishes together after supper one night; “Are you still getting that pain?”
“A little”, she admitted reluctantly.
“You’ve been having it for a while now, haven’t you?”
She bit her lip and nodded, avoiding my gaze.
“Where is it exactly?”
She put her hand on her abdomen; “Here, on my left side”.
“Is that the same side that feels bloated all the time?”
“How bad is it?”
She hesitated, and then said, “It’s actually pretty intense”.
“Is it a sharp pain, or like a dull ache or something?”
She grinned at me; “I’ve trained you well, haven’t I?”
“This conversation’s about you, not me”.
“Right, sorry. It’s a sharp pain; it comes intermittently. Sometimes” – she paused for a moment, bending a little and catching her breath, and I put my hand on her arm; “You’re getting it right now, aren’t you?”
She nodded again, and I put my hand on her forehead. “You’re sweating. We need to get you up to the hospital”.
She shook her head vigorously; “No, Tom, please – I don’t want to leave my baby. Please – I’ll make an appointment to see Doctor Wallace at the clinic. It’s probably nothing”.
“It’s not nothing, Kelly; you’re losing weight, and your abdomen is bloated, and you’re tired all the time, and you’re getting sick to your stomach and you can’t finish a decent meal. And now this pain, too. Is that it, or is there more you’re not telling me?”
She straightened and looked at me, and I saw the tears in her eyes; “I’m having a tough time with a bladder infection, too”, she admitted.
“A bladder infection? Have you been to the clinic about it?”
“When? And why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want you to worry, Tom”.
I took the towel out of her hand, led her over to the kitchen table, waited while she sat down, and then took my seat across from her, continuing to hold her hand. “Kelly, this isn’t like you – you don’t hide things from me. What’s going on?”
She looked at me in silence for a moment, biting her lip, and I reached across and wiped the tears away from her eyes with my hand. “Come on, my love; tell me”.
“I’m so scared, Tom”, she whispered.
“What are you scared of?”
“I’m scared that I’ll have to go into hospital and they’ll keep Emma away from me; she’s so little, and you’ve got a job to do, and she needs me”.
“Why would you have to go into hospital? What are you suspecting?” I took both her hands in mine and said, “You do suspect something, don’t you? You’re a nurse, and you know about these things. What is it? Come on – stop keeping this from me”.
She shook her head; “At first I thought it might be just an irritable bowel or something, although I’ve never had that before. That would explain the bloated feeling, and some of the pain. But then I started getting the nausea, and the sharp pain, and the bladder infection…”
“It could be diverticulitis – or it might be some kind of a cyst; ovarian cysts are not uncommon”.
“A cyst would need surgery, right?”
“It depends how big it is. If it’s fairly big, it would need to be removed. I’m only really getting pain on the one side, so I think only one side is affected”.
“So that’s two possibilities. Are there others?”
She shook her head; “Not that I can think of. I’m too young for ovarian cancer; it really only starts affecting women in their forties and fifties. Occasionally you hear of cases in younger women, but they’re very, very rare”.
“Diverticulitis wouldn’t need surgery, right?”
“Only if it gets really bad; you usually treat it with diet and antibiotics”.
“Well, that doesn’t sound too bad”.
“No, but a cyst would be more serious”.
“Alright; let’s call the clinic in the morning and make an appointment as soon as possible”.
“But what if they want me to go into hospital? How are we going to look after Emma? How are you going to manage, with your job and everything?”
“Kelly, you’re not thinking straight. If this is bad, and you do nothing, it’ll get worse, and that won’t help Emma at all. If it’s what you suspect it is, and if you have to go into hospital for a while, well, you know as well as I do that the family will all gather around. Whatever it is, we’ll get through it. But we need to know what it is, and we’ll never know unless you go to the clinic and tell Doctor Wallace what’s going on”.
She looked at me for a moment, then nodded and squeezed my hand. “You’re right, of course; I know you are. It’s just that I’ve been so scared; I didn’t want to tell you about it, because…”
“I know”, I replied softly, “and I understand. But honestly, love, it’s best if we’re up front with each other, don’t you think?” I laughed suddenly; “God knows, I never expected to be having this conversation with you, of all people!”
She smiled ruefully at me; “No, I guess not”.
I leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “Let’s get these dishes finished, and then you go and lie down for a while; Emma’s napping, and I can see that you’re tired”.
She looked at me for a moment without speaking, and then she said, “You’re so good to me; thank you”.
I shook my head; “No need”, I replied softly.
She called the clinic the next morning, a Friday, and she was able to get an appointment first thing Monday morning. When she called me at school during the lunch hour to tell me about this, I was a little hesitant, and I asked her if she didn’t think she should go up to emergency at the hospital, but she said she wasn’t feeling too bad and she thought Monday would be okay.
On Saturday morning I woke up early; Kelly and Emma were both sound asleep, and I got quietly out of bed, made myself a cup of tea, and went downstairs to the den in the basement, out of earshot of our bedroom. There was a phone extension down there, and I sat down on an old easy chair, picked up the receiver and dialled Owen’s number.
“Fosters”, he said.
“Hey, it’s me”.
“Tom – is everything okay?”
“Maybe, but I’ll tell you in a minute. First, is everything okay with you?”
“Oh yes – I’m busy at work as ever, people seem to keep getting sick, you know!”
I laughed; “Training’s going well?”
“Yes. Hard to believe the end’s in sight; another fourteen months or so, and I’ll be able to go into general practice”.
“Actually, she’s currently enjoying some unexpected success in the artistic world”.
“Tell me more”.
“Well, she’s been showing some of her watercolours at a local gallery, and she’s sold a few for decent prices, so she’s more than a little pleased with herself”.
“I guess so – tell her ‘Well done’ from me”.
“I will. So – what’s going on?”
“I need you to put on your NHS hat for a few minutes, Owen”.
“No doctors in Meadowvale, then?”
“Yes, and Kelly’s got an appointment, but I want to run something by you and get your opinion”.
“Well, I don’t normally do that sort of thing, but…”
“I know, but I’d appreciate it if you’d make an exception”.
I described for him the symptoms I’d noticed in Kelly and the things she had told me. When I was finished, he was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “She may be right; diverticulitis or an ovarian cyst seem like the most likely causes of her symptoms. Her doctor will probably refer her for an ultrasound, and if there are cysts, he’ll probably refer her to a gynaecologist. There are various kinds of growths and cysts and tumours that can attach to the ovaries, and they could well cause bloating by putting pressure on the intestines. They might also cause bladder infections, in the same way”.
“Is there anything else we should consider?”
He didn’t reply, and eventually I said, “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that you rang me because you wanted me to tell you what might be going on, so there’s more I need to tell you”.
“Then tell me – I’d rather know”.
“I don’t think I’d want to use the word ‘know’ at this distance, Tom. But the only thing I want to say is this – and I hesitate to say it, because I know I might be conjuring up a bogeyman that’s not there – but here it is, anyway: don’t dismiss the possibility of ovarian cancer”.
“Kelly said that was extremely rare in women her age”.
“It is, but ‘extremely rare’ doesn’t mean ‘unknown’. There are ovarian cancers that do attack younger women – germ cell cancers, dysgerminomas, and so on. I know, because I saw a case of it last year when I was working in gynaecology. A young woman was referred to us, about twenty-two years old, single, not sexually active or anything, complaining of just the symptoms Kelly talked about. My supervisor thought it sounded like an ovarian cyst, but when he did exploratory surgery, we discovered a cancerous tumour on one of the ovaries. Fortunately, my supervisor knew something about cancers, but he said to me afterwards that it would have been better if our patient had been referred to a gynaecologic oncologist”.
“Tell me more”.
“Ovarian cancers often slip under the radar screen; there’s no screening test, and they tend to present in such a way that people think they’re dealing with something else – like a cyst, or diverticulitis. Early detection is fundamental; if you can catch them at stage one, when the cancer is still confined to one or both ovaries, there’s a very good chance of a full recovery. If it gets past stage one and spreads to other areas, the chances are much lower. So listen, Tom – don’t let Kelly’s doctor dismiss this possibility. Yes, the chances are low, but low isn’t the same as non-existent. Ovarian cancers do attack younger women. If you can, when she gets referred, see if she can see a gynaecologic oncologist, not just a gynaecologist”.
“What should I tell her?”
“She’s brave and she’s honest; you should tell her exactly what I’ve told you”.
“But she’s so terrified of the thought of having to be parted from Emma to go into hospital, and this would be even worse”.
“It’s a worse case scenario, but if it turns out to be true, getting right onto it is the best thing to do”. He paused, and then said, “Our patient was lucky – not all gynaecologists know what to do when they unexpectedly encounter a cancer in the middle of what they thought was a routine surgery to remove a cyst. If she’d gone to one of them, her chances wouldn’t have been so good. So please, make sure that lovely wife of yours gets into the best possible hands”.
For a moment I didn’t reply; my head was spinning as I tried to take in everything he was saying to me. Eventually I said, “Okay. Well, I’d better go up and make sure they’re alright”.
“Give Kelly my love, and tell her Lorraine and I will pray”.
“I will. Thanks, Owen”.
“We’ll pray for you, too”.
“Thank you; I think I’m going to need it”.
In the end it was uncanny how closely Kelly’s case followed Owen’s description.
We saw Doctor Wallace on the Monday; he gave her a full examination, and agreed that there seemed to be some sort of growth in the pelvic area. “Let’s get you in for an ultrasound”, he said, “so we’ve got some idea of what we’re looking for”.
A couple of weeks later we drove down to Saskatoon for Kelly’s ultrasound. For a few days we heard nothing, then we got a phone call asking us to come back in for a consultation with a gynaecologist. So we went down to the city again, and Dr. Larson, the gynaecologist, told us that there appeared to be growths on both of Kelly’s ovaries. “There are two on your left ovary”, she said, “one of which is quite large; I’m guessing it’s the one that’s causing you the sharp pains in your side. But there’s also one on your right ovary; it looks like a benign cyst to me. In fact, I think they could all turn out to be cysts. But the large one needs attention pretty quick, so I’m going to try to get you in for surgery as quickly as I can”.
As Owen had suggested, I had told Kelly everything he had shared with me, and since then she had been doing a lot of reading and re-reading. We were sitting across the desk from Dr. Larson; I was holding Emma, who was still asleep from the car ride. Kelly leaned forward a little in her chair and said, “What are the chances that these are dysgerminomas?”
“It’s possible, I suppose; we can’t rule that out. Are you a doctor?”
“I’m a nurse, but Tom’s best friend is a doctor in training in the U.K., and he told us about a case like mine”.
“Okay, I’m listening”.
Kelly told her the story Owen had told me, and when she was done, Dr. Larson nodded thoughtfully. “Well, as your friend said, that sort of thing is pretty rare, but he’s right that if, by some slight chance, it does turn out to be ovarian cancer, early detection and treatment is crucial”. She frowned thoughtfully. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll schedule you for surgery as soon as I can, and we really can’t know what we’re going to find until we go in. But I’ll do my best to have an oncologist on hand, just in case it does turn out to be cancerous”.
“And if you can’t get an oncologist that day, and it does turn out to be cancerous?”
“Then I won’t touch anything, but I’ll refer you for immediate emergency surgery by an oncologist”.
“And that won’t be the end of it, right?” I asked. “If it does turn out to be cancerous, she’ll need further treatment after surgery?”
“Very likely, but that’s not my area, so I’d rather not comment on it”.
That night we sat up very late in our living room; Kelly nursed Emma to sleep, and then I made a pot of herbal tea and we sat on the couch together, holding hands and sipping from our tea mugs. Since our first conversation about her symptoms she had seemed to regain a bit of her usual courage, and her determination to face reality honestly.
We talked for a long time about the events of the last few weeks. Eventually she fell silent, and after a moment I squeezed her hand and said, “Are you okay?”
She frowned and shook her head, looking away from me. “This could be it for more children, you know”, she said softly.
“No, not necessarily, but it’s a strong possibility. If those three growths turn out to be cancerous tumours, they’ll probably have to remove both my ovaries, and maybe the uterus as well”.
“We don’t have to think about that right now, though”.
She turned to look at me. “Yes, we do, Tom. If I’m in surgery and Dr. Larson comes out to you and says, ‘It’s cancer and we want to take out her ovaries and her uterus’, you’re going to have to know how to answer that”.
I looked back at her for a moment, and then I said, “I guess you’re right. So, how should I answer it?”
“I think we should be guided by their judgement – hers, and the oncologist’s. If they think that leaving an ovary or a bit of an ovary in is okay, fair enough, but if they think it would be safer to take them all out, I think that’s what they should do”.
I shook my head; “But Kelly, you’ve wanted a tribe of kids since you were a teenager”.
I saw her eyes suddenly swell with tears; “I know, Tom”, she whispered; “Please don’t think I haven’t thought of that”.
I put my arms around her and held her close, kissing her forehead. “This is such a shitty situation”.
“It sure is”.
“You can go from ecstatic happiness to total fear and despair in the space of just a few months”.
I kissed her again, stroking the back of her head with my hand. “I’m sorry; it’s your body, not mine – I’m just the husband. You’re the one that’s going under the knife, and you’re the one that’ll have to go through chemo or radiation if it turns out to be cancer. This is not about me”. I tightened my arms around her; “I love you so much”.
“I love you too. And it’s not just about me; you’re involved, too”.
“Well, maybe a little bit”.
She pulled back and looked up at me, shaking her head. “No, not just a little bit; this is your family we’re talking about too. We both knew we wanted more children – not to mention the fact that we love each other, and we’re using the ‘c’ word here when we’re both twenty-seven years old and we never expected to even have to consider it for decades yet”.
I frowned; “Do you ever wonder where God is in all this?”
“Yeah, but I don’t waste a lot of time with that one”.
“Well, sickness is a problem, but my sickness is no more of a problem than anyone else’s. I never signed up for Christianity on the expectation that God would miraculously shield Christians from sicknesses that non-Christians would get. In fact, if I thought God was like that, I don’t know if I’d want to believe in him”.
“No, I take your point; it’s cancer in general that’s the problem”.
“Yes, but cancer does exist, and you knew that on that day at Myers Lake when you had your experience of the love of God, and you still came out of that believing that God is love and Christ is real”.
“Yes, I did”.
“So it’s a mystery, and we’ve learned to live with it, and I can’t waste time trying to figure it out, Tom. I can’t solve the problem of pain; I need to feel that God’s with me through this pain, giving me what it takes to get through it. So I don’t want to waste time being mad at him – that’s not going to help me at all. I don’t want to rant – I want to pray”.
“You are still an amazing woman, Kelly Ruth”.
“No, really, I’m not”.
“No, really, you are! As usual, you’ve seen right through to the things that matter the most”.
“Maybe, but I’m still a long way from where I want to be”. She put her hand on mine and said, “I’m tired, but I really need to pray before I go to bed”.
“Okay; let’s do it, then”.
She had her surgery at University Hospital in Saskatoon on Monday May 26th, just over a week before Krista received her Ph.D. at the spring convocation. Will and Sally went down to the city with us the day before the surgery so that Sally could look after Emma at Steve and Krista’s house while we were at the hospital. Kelly’s procedure was first thing in the morning, and before taking her into the operating room Dr. Larson came out to meet us and to introduce us to a tall, thin man in his early fifties. “This is Dr. Smith”, she said; “He’s a gynaecologic oncologist, and he’s going to be with me in the operating room”.
We shook hands with Dr. Smith, and he said, “I just want to make sure you both understand that once we get into the surgery, there may be choices we have to make”.
“I’ve signed the forms”, Kelly replied; “I know that you may decide you need to take out one or both ovaries, or more, and I’ve okayed that. Tom and I have talked about this; we want you to do what you think is best”.
Dr. Larson put her hand on Kelly’s shoulder. “You’re a young woman, Kelly”, she said softly; “We’ll do our best for you”.
“I know you will. Thank you”.
She was in surgery for six hours; Will sat with me in the waiting room, and from time to time he went and got coffee for us. At about eleven o’clock Dr. Larson came out to find us, wearing her scrubs. I caught her eye, and Will and I both stood up as she came over to us.
“Do we know anything?” I asked.
She nodded. “I’m afraid your friend was right; it is cancer”.
I let out my breath slowly, feeling the cold hand of fear in the pit of my stomach. “So that means…?”
“All three tumours are malignant. The big one has been causing most of Kelly’s trouble, but the others will be just as dangerous before too long. Dr. Smith thinks they’ve grown very quickly; it’s very unlikely that there was any cancer at all in Kelly’s body when your baby was born”.
“So does everything have to come out?”
“I’m afraid we’ll have to take out both ovaries. At the moment we’re not sure whether anything has spread to the uterus; we’ll know that before too long. I need to go back in and assist Dr. Smith now, but I wanted you to know what was happening”.
“Thanks”. I frowned; “This is a silly question, but is Kelly doing okay?”
“She’s doing fine; she’s in good shape, and we’re taking good care of her”.
She nodded, and then turned and slipped out of the waiting room. Will turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder; “Are you okay?” he asked.
I shook my head slowly. “We always knew it was a possibility, but still…”
“Thank God for Owen”.
“That’s for sure. Listen, are you okay if I slip out for a minute? I should call Sally at Krista’s and let her know what’s going on; she’ll be worrying”.
“Go ahead, Will; I’ll be fine”.
At about two o’clock Brenda Nikkel slipped into the waiting room and sat down between Will and me. “Is there any word?” she asked me.
“Yeah, there is; it’s c… it’s cancer”. I felt my throat tightening, and I tried to blink back the tears; she stared at me for a moment, and then leaned over and hugged me. “Is she still in surgery?”
“What are they doing?”
I told her what Doctor Larsen had told me; “If everything’s going as expected, they should be finishing up any time now”.
“Well, at least they’ve got it in time”.
“Do you mind if I sit with you for a while?”
I shook my head; “I’d be glad of your company, Bren. Has Gary got Ryan?”
“No, I left him at Gary’s mom and dad’s; Gary’s at the shop all day”.
At about three o’clock in the afternoon Dr. Larson came back to the waiting room. We stood up to meet her again, and she smiled and said, “Sit down; you must be really tired”.
“Are you just getting out of surgery now?” I asked as we sat down together.
“No, we finished up about an hour ago. Kelly’s in the recovery room now, and she’s starting to come around, but I wanted to tell you what we did before you talk to her”.
“It turned out that we were just in time; this was a very fast moving cancer and it had started to spread to the uterus, so unfortunately we had to do a hysterectomy as well. We’re pretty sure that we got all of it, but we need to make absolutely sure, so that means chemotherapy, starting as soon as she’s had a few weeks to recover from surgery”.
“Dr. Smith will supervise that, and he’ll have a consultation with you as soon as Kelly feels well enough”.
“She’s nursing Emma”.
“I’m afraid she’ll have to stop doing that as soon as she starts chemotherapy”.
“She won’t like that”.
I looked at her and saw the sympathy in her eyes. “Tom, you and Kelly are strong”, she said; “I saw that when you were in my office that day, and she basically took control of what was going to happen during her surgery. She’s led an active lifestyle, her body’s in good shape apart from the cancer, and you’ve got a strong marriage. You will get through this; I know it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, but it’s there, believe me”.
“Would you like to come through now and be with her as she’s coming round?”
“Can you give me a couple of minutes first?”
“Of course. I’ll be over by the door”.
She got up and went over to the other side of the room, and I looked across at Will. “Are you going to call Sally?” I asked.
“Yes; I know she’ll want to come in as soon as she can”.
“I’ll need to check with the doctor on how soon we should bring Emma in; I know that’s the first thing Kelly will ask me”.
He looked at me in silence for a moment, and then he said, “This has hit you hard, hasn’t it?”
“It’s hard to take in”.
“I’m twenty-seven years old, we’ve been married for a year and a half, we’ve celebrated the birth of our first child, and now suddenly we’re talking cancer, and chemotherapy, and bits of Kelly’s body being taken out, and no more children, and no more nursing her baby”. I shook my head, blinking back the tears; “I can’t believe this is happening to us”.
“I know”, he said, and I saw that there were tears in his eyes, too. “You don’t expect to have to watch your kids go through this”.
I swallowed hard, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, and said, “This’ll be tough for you and Sally, too”.
I took a deep breath; “Well, I’d better go through to Kelly. I’ll come back and tell you both as soon as I know when you can see her”.
“Right; I’ll call Sally and Krista, and then I’ll come right back here”.
Brenda put her hand on my arm; “I’ll just wait here until I hear from you; tell her I love her and that I’m thinking of her and praying for her, but I don’t need to see her unless she feels strong enough”.
Doctor Larsen led me to the recovery room; there was a nurse just coming out, and I asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Are you Mr. Masefield?”
“She’s fine; she’s waiting for you”.
Dr. Larsen put her hand on my shoulder. “I’ll let you go in by yourself; right now she needs to see you more than me. I’ll come back later and check on her”.
“Okay; thank you”.
Kelly was lying on the hospital bed with a couple of IV lines leading into her arms; there were several machines beside the bed, and the curtains at the window were closed. She looked deathly pale, but when she saw me she gave me a weak smile. “Hey”, she said.
I pulled a chair up to the bed, sat down beside her, and took her hand in mine. “How are you feeling?”
“Groggy, and sore. Where’s Emma?”
“Still at Krista’s with your mum”.
“When can I see her? She’s going to be so scared”.
“I don’t know; they haven’t told me that yet. I’ll ask in a few minutes”.
“They haven’t told me anything, Tom”.
“No, I think they want me to do that”.
“Was it bad?”
I nodded. “Owen was right – it was cancer. All three tumours were malignant”.
She was quiet for a moment again, and I could see that she was struggling to take it in. Eventually she said, “Did they take both ovaries?”
“Yes. Dr. Larson said they were just in time; it was a very fast-acting cancer, and it had just begun to spread to the uterus”.
“So both ovaries and the uterus?”
“I’m sorry, Kelly”.
She shook her head; “Well, I’m alive, thanks to Owen”.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that, too”.
“But no more children”.
I shook my head, lifting her hand to my lips. “I’m so sorry”.
I saw her eyes suddenly brimming with tears, and I got up from the chair, sat down on the edge of the bed, and took her in my arms. “I love you. We’ll get through this”.
“I know”, she said in a choking voice, “but I did so much want to have more children”.
“I know; so did I”.
I felt her shaking her head against my shoulder. “I can’t take it in, Tom!” she sobbed; “I just can’t believe this is happening to me”.
“We were so happy…”
“How could this have happened so fast?” She suddenly pulled back from me, and I saw the panic in her eyes. “Emma – what if she…?”
I shook my head; “Dr. Smith said it was a very fast-acting cancer; he’s almost sure there was nothing there when you were carrying Emma”.
“But we should make sure…”
“I’m sure Dr. Smith will talk to us about that”.
“If he doesn’t, we need to bring it up”.
“I’ll remember it”. I leaned forward again and kissed her on the forehead. “Kelly, my love, I’m afraid there’s more”.
“Dr. Larson said that although they’re almost certain that they got all the cancer, they want to make absolutely sure, so they want you to have a course of chemo”.
She stared at me; “For how long?”
“I don’t know, and she couldn’t say. Apparently you’ll be referred to Dr. Smith and he’ll tell us what the options are”.
“Well, I suppose it’s possible for you to refuse, but…”
She shook her head; “No, you’re right, I know”. I saw the tears in her eyes again; “This means I’ll have to stop nursing Emma, doesn’t it?”
I nodded; “It’s the drugs…”
“I know”, she said bitterly; “I’m a nurse, remember?”
“Of course you are; I’m sorry”.
She reached out and took my hand. “No, I’m sorry; I shouldn’t be taking this out on you”.
“If you have to take it out on me, you go ahead; I’m not the one whose body’s been invaded by a deadly disease. Do whatever you need to do to get through this, Kelly. If the end result is that you’re alive and we have years of marriage ahead of us, I really don’t care what we have to do to get there; the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about”.
“No – you’re right, of course”. She smiled at me through her tears; “This time you’re the one who sees what’s really important”.
“Well, you’re more than a bit groggy right now”.
She nodded. “Can you find out for me when I can see Emma? I’d really like to see her before I go to sleep again tonight”.
“I’ll find out. I also need to let your dad and mum know when they can see you; are you feeling up to it?”
“Of course. How are they taking it?”
“I haven’t seen your mum; she’s still at Krista’s with Emma. Your dad’s been with me here all day long. He’s trying to put a brave face on it to help me, but I know he was pretty shaken by the news”.
“Bren’s here too. She told me to tell you that she loves you and she’s praying for you, but she doesn’t need to see you unless you feel up to it”.
“I don’t mind if she comes in for a few minutes; I’d be glad to see her”.
“Okay, I’ll tell her that. Right, I’d better go and see what I can find out about bringing Emma in, and then I’ll be back”.
She put her head back down on the pillow, and I leaned forward and kissed her. “I love you”, I said.
“I love you, too. Don’t be too long, okay?”
“I won’t; I promise”.