1 It’s Okay to be Afraid
1.1 My Story
My eyes locked on to the bloody spot on the lower left front of my wife Benita’s blouse.
“What’s going on? What’s with the blood?” I asked pointing to the half-dollar sized strain.
My heart was aching. It looked terrible, scary. I knew this couldn’t be good.
Miss Benita gazed down toward the damp crimson. Her eyes looked tired, sad. She said, “It’s my mole. It started bleeding.”
I recalled the small mole I had first noticed over forty years earlier on our wedding night. I had playfully kidded her about it that night calling it her beauty mark. I found out that was the wrong thing to do. She was sensitive about the mole.
“What’s going on?” I said. I could hear the fear, concern, and the demand for an answer in my voice.
She lifted her eyes meeting mine. I could see the tears forming. She smiled weakly and then said, “I think I must have scratched or irritated it, maybe at work. It started bleeding a couple of weeks ago. It scabbed over a couple of times, but when I thought it was healing, I would do something to cause the scab to bleed. I thought it would get better. Instead, I think it may be getting infected. It may be getting worse, and it’s not healing,” she said.
Melanoma Cancer, I thought.
“Has Dr. Z looked at it?”
She shook her head, “No, not yet. I didn’t want to mess up our vacation to Colorado and your writer’s conference,” she answered with a forced smile and then lowered her eyes.
I took her hand, lovingly squeezed it, and hugged her holding her close. We were out for an afternoon of shopping in a local furniture store and enjoying each other’s company.
I nodded and then said, “Let’s go home where I can look at it.”
She stared at me, our eyes locking for a few seconds. It was as if she was saying I’m sorry. She looked sad. Then she nodded.
She knows this is very bad, I thought.
We held hands, walked unhurriedly through the store, and to the car. I drove us home in silence.
Once home, I led her to the bedroom and closed the door. She unbuttoned the blouse and removed a blood-soaked gauze bandage. The mole was oozing blood through a cracked dreadful looking scab.
The mole had grown from the size on an eraser on a number 2 pencil to about the size of a quarter. It had changed from a light brown to a horrible black since I last remembered seeing it.
Melanoma Cancer, I again thought.
“Let’s call the dermatologist. I think that’s Melanoma Cancer,” I said with a seriousness that scared even me.
Miss Benita’s lips tightened, and eyes narrowed at hearing the words. She shook slightly and exhaled.
I asked, “Do you want me to call and get you an appointment or do you prefer to call?”
She glanced at herself in the mirror looking at the mole. “I’ll call the dermatologist. Dr. Z will refer me there,” she said.
The dermatologist performed the same day an in-office surgery removing the mole and adjacent tissue. The physician had the test expedited. She called late that night with the biopsy’s results.
“I wrote down what the doctor told me. She said, ‘It’s malignant. It is a type of cancer called Melanoma, and it’s advanced stage 3. The depth of cancer determines the stage. It’s within one centimeter of being stage four.’ I know it’s bad. I could hear the doctor’s quivering voice and her choking back tears. She told me this is serious and could kill me,” said a shaken Miss Benita.
The dermatologist acquired an appointment with a surgical oncologist. She said I needed to go to the office with my wife. Her finding us an appointment the next morning at 8 AM showed the urgency of the situation. My wife had surgery within a couple of days.
The surgery’s findings were terrible. It was Melanoma Cancer. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.
The oncological surgeon removed thirty-four lymph nodes. The physician told me the five-year survival rate for these findings was less than ten percent.
While my wife was still in recovery at the hospital, the surgeon told us some of the treatment options and that when not if, cancer recurred it would be restaged to Melanoma stage 4 and would be terminal. There was no cure. She said death was the ultimate destination of this journey barring providential intervention or a new medical and pharmaceutical breakthrough.
I knew Melanoma stage 3 was too big for me to handle. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had already moved into a new role as a caregiver. I also realized the future my wife and I had planned together had suddenly changed.
Our hopes and dreams vanished. They were replaced by feelings of fear and hopelessness. I was overwhelmed just thinking about the day to day struggles of caregiving. I faced the fear of the unknown.
So many questions flooded my mind. Would my wife survive? How long would she live? What would be the quality of her life and mine? How would we pay the medical bills? How much help was she going to need from me daily? How could I be strong and help her? How was this going to affect our day jobs?
I also was concerned for our three grown children and granddaughter. What I needed was hope.
The purpose of this book is to share the hope Christians have and the hope that my wife and I exercised through our faith in Jesus Christ. It shares my journey as a caregiver.
“Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” offers Biblical guidance and support helping you in your role as caregiver. It will help you connect with the perfect love which casts out all fear, the love of Jesus Christ.
The day I noticed the blood on Miss Benita’s blouse, my wife and I prayed together. We shared I love you and claimed, Psalm 56:3 (KJV), “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee” and 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares on the Lord for He careth for you.”
This story does not have an Earthly happily ever after ending. My wife lived 1001 days from the first surgery. Then she died. The faith we both had in Jesus Christ allowed us to face each day with hope.
Yes, even with our hope because of our Christian faith we still were afraid. However, our trust in Jesus Christ leads us through the process moving us from fear to a calmness that could only come from God. The fact that my wife was a Christian gave us a real-world spiritual happily ever after ending. She is in heaven today, and one day, since I am also a Christian, I will join her there.
1.2 It’s Okay to be Afraid
Fear of the unknown and fear of the journey you are beginning is part of the process of learning to care for a person with a chronic or terminal illness. It’s a scary assignment. When you’re a caregiver, it’s okay to be afraid.
You also need to learn to accept the hope for the caregiver that’s available through Jesus Christ. The hope available through the love of Jesus Christ will help you face and handle the fears you will encounter in your journey of caregiving.
1.3 Bible Verse
1 John 4:18 King James Version of the Holy Bible (KJV), “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
1.4 What the Verse Means
John says that perfect love produces courage in the day of judgment. It casts out fear.
How does the perfect love of Jesus Christ accomplish casting out fear? Perfect love casts out fear because it produces a likeness to Christ and Jesus Christ is the Judge.
There is another way in which love produces boldness. It does this by its casting out fear. The entrance of perfect love through Jesus Christ is for fear a “cease and desist” letter. It is an order to quit.
When love arrives, it brings hand in hand with itself courage. Boldness is the companion of love, only when love is perfect. Only professing Christians can experience this perfect love of God, a love that casts out fear.
As Believer’s in Jesus Christ, we can face the future, including being the caregiver of a loved one with a chronic illness, and even death with the peace that only comes from Christ’s perfect love.
If you are not a Christian, accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior is a prerequisite to obtaining God’s peace.
1.5 Pray Using Scripture
- Lord Jesus, thank you that there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.
- Heavenly Father help me to keep my mind focused on you and your love for me.
- God, help me remove any fears I may have as I look to the future by turning them over to you daily and as new ones occur.
- Provide your grace to meet the challenges I encounter daily. I cannot travel this journey alone but can with you.
- Help me to know without any doubt that as a Believer in Jesus Christ my ultimate future is in Heaven. Help my loved one to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior if they are not a Christian. Prepare their heart to hear the Gospel and to accept Christ as Savior.
1.6 Responding to God’s Hope
- List two examples of times you have been afraid (Psalm 56:3 and 1 Peter 5:7).
- Remember two times you have trusted in God since your loved one’s diagnosis with a chronic illness (Psalm 56:3 and 1 Peter 5:7)
- List two cares or concerns you are facing. Cast (or give) those cares to the Lord remembering that “He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7).
Photo Source: Pixabay
This blog is from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.