An Unexpected Change in Plans


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Merry Christmas to all

It’s Christmas Eve day.

The aroma of my Jamie Oliver-inspired gravy wafts gently throughout rooms regaled in ornaments, decorations, pine boughs and tiny lights.

Another half hour and I’ll start lighting some candles.

Carols are playing softly in the background while Daughter and Husband work diligently on a holiday puzzle.

But this is not the post that I’d written and had ready to share. I’ve scrapped that and as I type, I cannot get over the feeling that I’ve been punched in the gut. Earlier today I learned that a dear, dear friend is in the fight of her life with a brain tumor.

Less than a month ago she was the happy, healthy, caring single mother of three that we have all known and loved. She is full of grace and gentle spirit and a calm resolve that is incredibly reassuring.

A nurse by profession, she is a carer by instinct. Softspoken with a ready smile, warm hug, gentle squeeze of the hand or a rub on your back, she has the most genuine eye contact you can imagine.

She also happens to be the very reason why I have become a writer, without her even knowing it or having ever uttered the word.

It all goes back to a conversation we had almost three years ago, just a week before I left the US to move to the Netherlands. Sitting on her back porch sipping a delicious California red amid the gently swaying Carolina pines, we spoke and reminisced and shared.

In the midst of this peaceful evening, she said something that has stayed with me ever since. A seed of an idea was planted in my mind, and over time it grew and took shape until I was forced to acknowledge it and take action. And despite seeing her the following summer on a trip back to the US, I never found the chance to remind her of that conversation and her prophetic words.

My friend woke up one morning a little more than three weeks ago and things seemed off, slightly unbalanced. As symptoms worsened over the next two days, she was having a brain scan and admitted to a topnotch hospital nearby; brain surgery was performed just a few days later.

When I read the name of her surgeon, a world renowned tumor specialist, my blood ran cold. He is, quite simply put, the very best brain surgeon dealing with aggressive tumors in the US. Probably in the world. He treats the rich and famous and poor and unknown alike. His is the second opinion that so many scramble to procure.

He is very, very good. And if he has your case, it is very, very bad.

I’m working hard to concentrate on the first sentence.

If faced with this, you’d want him and his team behind you. They ply their trade, and many people get better. Some don’t, but others find the miracle they need. We have already received a miracle in having her here with us today. Only time will tell whether it will be of a more enduring sort.

The pathology results haven’t come back yet, but it seems radiation and chemotherapy are in the offing in the days ahead. Moved to a rehabilitation facility after the surgery, my friend has done well enough to finally be released and was allowed to return home yesterday.

It’s going to be a very quiet Christmas and New Year’s for her, but she’s overjoyed to be back home with her family. Never, ever one to complain, she is appreciative of how well she is doing and eager to face the daunting way ahead. More than that, she is glad for time with her children and extended family.

The other day I received a lovely compliment from a fellow blogger about always finding joy in what I have. I guess it is true, because despite our best hopes, I know in my heart that many of us are dealing with just the kind of news that I received today.

Sometimes we are blessed with the happiest of words: ‘I’m pregnant’ or ‘it’s a girl!’ or ‘we’re engaged’ or ‘I got the job’. But other times we deal with the call in the middle of the night, the knock at the door, or the chilling words ‘it’s malignant’ or ‘he’s not responding to treatment’. So many are dealing with the aftermath of pain, heartache, and loss.

With one year drawing to a close and another about to begin, this time of year is always one given to both retrospection and introspection. I’m no different. I like to take stock, turn the events of the past year over and over in my mind, readjust as needed and set a course for the coming year.

I’m still going to do that, just as I’m going to enjoy Christmas and the holidays with my loved ones. But it’ll be tempered with the knowledge that time is passing. My thoughts will drift to my friend and others. Memories will be closer to the surface, and my prayers will come more readily.

Of one thing I’m certain. There’s a conversation I want to, no, need to have. One in which I express my gratitude for her friendship and that little seed she planted ages ago.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and lovely holiday season.






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