On September 18, 1989, I was 8 years old. I actually remember that day quite vividly. Hurricane Hugo had descended on the island of Puerto Rico and I was a young little girl eagerly anticipating the blustery winds and heavy rains the massive storm would bring to the island. I remember being anxious and very inquisitive throughout the day. We lost power, we lost water. We lived on the 4th floor of a six floor condominium. I could peak out our metal windows and see the pool below so full of brown water that we couldn’t even see the pool ladder. I could hear the howling winds, see mature trees struggling to stay grounded and I could even see debris flying everywhere. It was massive. Later that evening as I laid down to sleep the storm had quieted down and I knew in my little heart that a hurricane had torn up my island. But, just like any child I closed my eyes peacefully knowing it was all going to be ok. The next day we ventured and saw the damage in our town. . . yet, over time the island recovered.
On the evening September 18, 2015, my husband had MRIs performed. I was anxious and hopeful, secretly praying that surely he wouldn’t have a brain tumor just as his dad had faced a malignant brain tumor for the second time this past May. I was hopeful that all was going to be well and that the swollen Virchow’s node would actually not mean anything. We left the imaging center together, quiet, but peaceful. Yet, as I was slowly going to sleep I knew a storm had brewed.

At noon on Saturday, September 19th I walked in the house and Ryan simply stated, “read this message” and the message read “I’m going to call you guys in a couple of hours. Will you be available?” When your PCP sends you a text on a Saturday when you know he wasn’t on call you instantly know something is serious. Otherwise, either A) he wouldn’t have messaged at all or B) stated something like this, “I have the results, nothing major, will discuss on Monday.” As any human in this predicament would have felt, those were the longest two hours of my life. Finally he called. Its a clear conversation that has run thru my mind many times these last seven days.

“I spoke extensively with the radiologist this morning . . . the brain MRI was clear . . . but the neck/chest and the abdomen MRIs showed a bunch of lymph nodes lighting up all over the place . . . I don’t want to be an alarmist but we are looking at two possibilities: a rare virus of some kind or lymphoma. Its more than likely lymphoma. . . need to see an ENT ASAP, a hematologist oncologist. . . cancer center . . . a biopsy as soon as possible. . . this is progressing very rapidly from when I saw you a little over a month ago . . . I’ll network first thing Monday morning to get you an ENT and oncologist asap. . . I’m sorry, this wasn’t what any of us expected. You are generally a healthy man.”
And there it was, the words you never thought you’d hear: CANCER. 
The tears flooded my eyes, shock, confusement. 
Fast forward to 11pm that evening and my husband goes to bed in boxers and I’m bundled up in long socks, pajama pants, shirt and a sweater hiding under the covers because I’m freezing and so continues the research on my phone. Signs of Lymphoma . . . 
  1. Enlarged Lymph Nodes: that started at least 4 months ago
  2. Swollen abdomen: about 3-4 weeks ago I told Ryan I thought his stomach felt harder than normal, we both thought he was just bloated.
  3. Chest pain or pressure: I thought it was just a cold.
  4. Shortness of breath or cough: So that wasn’t a cold that has lasted an unusually long while?
  5. Fever: no real fever with aches, but a few times his skin was hot last weekend when I was in OKC. I thought it was the cold.
  6. Night sweats: Tonight it hit me. I’m dressed for winter while my hubs is sleeping on his blanket. And this started well over a month ago. And, realizing he hasn’t been sleeping well for a month and he has drenched the bed a few times.
  7. Feeling full after only a small amount of food: So that’s why we had leftovers after we shared a meal at Ted’s Escondido last Saturday while I was in OKC . . . and he hasn’t been very hungry since he got home. 
  8. Fatigue: Ryan had started a new habit of getting up at 6am every day to walk and eat an apple a day in June . . . all of a sudden in early September that proved to be very difficult for him even though his daily routine hadn’t changed much at that point. 
And, here I am. Watching my husband sleep while tears run down my eyes. Couldn’t it just be coincidental? Couldn’t it just be a cold, he was stressed, a virus hit him hard? It can’t be cancer. It can’t be cancer. It can’t be cancer. 
And then . . . I’m intelligent. I’m smart. Why didn’t I put these symptoms together? Why didn’t I tell my husband to schedule the ENT appointment earlier? Why didn’t I see the red flags last weekend while in OKC? Ok, so he did WIN a singles men’s tennis tournament last weekend, but still those HEADACHES . . . I thought it was just the stress of going to training for 2 weeks and passing a state exam. I thought it was just a long cold.
And then . . . Crap! He should have seen his PCP 4 months ago when those two lymph nodes flared up . . . but it was just two small lymph nodes with absolutely no symptoms. Would they have done anything at that point? We could have caught it soooo early.
 
And then . . . the whispers, Caroline, you have no control. . . Caroline, this is not your fault. . . you are loved . . . you are cared for . . . you have done so much research these last few years why are you afraid? . . . Remember what you know. Remember whose you are. . . Remember the strength that comes from the One who loves you. Remember to listen to your heart. . . Remember to listen to the Spirit. . . Remember . . . come to Me and lay your cares on Me. Come to Me for PEACE that passes all understanding.
In the roller coaster of the emotions I faced that day from 2pm to midnight, peace won. Peace reminded me whose we are. Peace let me rest and know that this too shall pass. Ryan and I are conquerors. Its just a bump in the road, but we can do it together. We can win and will win.
On the bed, covered in winter sleepwear and huddled under the blanket my heart stood tall. I was in the eye of the storm. I knew what had happened. I knew what was coming. Yet, I stood in peace. I stood looking at the storm swirling around me knowing that there’s a peace that passes all understanding. I am in the eye of the storm where blustery winds surround me, yet my heart feels calm. Even with the wreckage *it* strives to leave, Ryan’s body will recover.
~Caroline Luelf
PEACE
P.S. I started writing this in my head days ago unsure if I should share my personal roller coaster, but today something inside of me said to look up hurricanes/eye of the storm . . . its just cool how little things like this just line up! I realized I needed to share this. . . I mean seriously, September 18, 1989? September 18, 2015? 😉

Posted by imagineucan24

13 Comments

  1. Thanks you Caroline for caring enough to share. You are amazing.

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  2. Thank you for sharing! I love you guys, and my heart goes out to you! Ryan is a special man, and he has such a neat heart!

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  3. Caroline, You are an amazing wife and mother! And also a very gifted writer! Thank you for sharing your heart, being real, and being such an inspiration to others. I know in my heart this is all going to work out for your good. And God will use this as a wonderful testimony of His love and grace! You and Ryan are overcomers and you continue to overcome every challenge you face. You both are a trophy of His grace!

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    1. Thank you, Connie! I’ll receive that! I never thought of myself as a writer as I’ve never had a longing for it, but who knows maybe it’ll spark something. This has become a way for my thoughts to gather and see my own journey unfolding. It’s healing for me in a way! Love you my sweet friend!

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  4. Caroline you don’t know me nor do I know you but I do know that we are sisters in Christ. God has used this message, this day to remind me of His presence in the eye of the storm. Cancer is an ugly disease that can destroy but my God is beautiful and powerful. Thank you for sharing and allowing God to shine through you.

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  5. You are an awesome writer!

    This was lovely. I had a major health event with one of my dogs yesterday, and I realized as I drove away that her illness was beyond my control. I could respond, but I couldn’t change or control or direct the situation. We can’t see everything, we can’t know everything. We do the best we can with the information we have. I’m glad you’ve found peace in this moment, and I know God is taking care of you.

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  6. Bless your heart Caroline! You/and Ryans, pure hearts are a ray of sunshine for many! I am going through breast cancer myself , for the second time around, and much of what you have experienced in your mind, I have encountered. Thankful peace has won out, for us both. I also love how our Lord has used a specific date and time. (“Sept. 18th”) to confirm His assurance to you.
    You are definitely a talented writer! Use it for His glory!
    My prayers are with you both♡

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  7. We are praying for you guys. Our journey has been similar, yet we did most of it alone. Mark wasnt sure he wanted anyone to know, it is better if you have a support system. Our doc told me to wake up Mark at midnight. Ugh.. The night before me going to my 30 yr High School reunion. His white cell count had risen to 40,000. The day we went into TCI the doc says, “Mark you know why you are here? ” Mark says, because my white cell is a bit high. Normal high would be 10,000. The doc says, “well you know you have leukemia right? The doc didnt skip a beat. I saw a tear in his eye. And said, doc can you stop a minute and let us take in what you just said:( then he proceeds to tell him about the three kinds of leukemia and if you ever had to have one his is the most treatable..mind you he wants to start him on a chemo pill callef Tsagnia that is new on Mkt and it gas a black box warning. The black box is there because it could mean sudden death..and also in that visit ( note: it wasnt TCI just yet..forgot..named changed..was Cancer Care Associates back then)..it had been Nov 1st Halloween just happened..so when we go that day on top of it being like a meat Market with people lined up 50 deep almost..there are spider webs, witches, grueling pumpkins, and we go down hall to get blood work and right outside the lab was a large grim reaper..kid you not..not making this up..:( then the doc also says in the room, ( mind you we know nothing about keukemia, except white blood cells are effected at that point…he tells us look up LLS.org and don’t look at other sites also ( mind you he actuakly is open to nutrition as we find out later visits) we pray about his options..if no treatement he says, he would maybe live three yrs. well PTL this is coming up on two yrs.
    then we pray about the older med to treat this And the doc won a nobel prize for actually worked good for Mark. We also consulted Doc Joel Robbins and he had a consult with 6 other docs on Mark’s behalf conference call. They all decided best to do both in his case. He started the older med with no side effects except tiny bit orbital water retention..then he dod healthy eating..within just about 4 weeks his numbers went to normal.

    God was good…Doc Robbins told Mark for him, the med was like being in Dukes of Hazard Car crossing over next town before Boss Hogs caught up to The General Lee, he understood that concept..for him the best of both world’s payed off. For Mark’s mom, she had female cancer yrs ago just before we got Married in 1986, she did yr of juicing, raw, and took Lilly Vernom shots for something like 21 days straight..she got rid of growth with in less then yr. she taught us a lot back then. She loved hacres.com..lots of neat stories on there.

    This is just a tiny part of Mark’s testimony. Today he is in what is callef Molecular remisdion by docs..he iscovercomin a low ACTH pituitary hormone level along with a tiny 7mm pit spot and adrenal spot and kindney cyst..they have evaluated all of it..dont think any is cancer, but keeping eye on kidney. He recently got laid off his job after 22 yrs and just had to take disability due to fatigue, but we know God is in control and He is working. Our insurance is 1300 a month with a 6,000 deductible. So we are sorry we can’t help at this time you guys financially( he prob should don Go Fund me too for our friends as well) he wants to be able to take a simple vacation somewhere even just to sit by the lake somewhere or in Branson even, but with bills and stuff we arent at this point. I have a heart for us getting involved with helping men’s cancers because I see that men fall through the cracks and their families. There is so much support for women’s breast cancer and female cancers, but not so much for men. I also see that Children’s cancers support groupd help families take all expense paid vacations when there isnt much again for men…maybe this are things wr learn so we can all help one another.. I feel Carolyn, like you just wrote our story. Thanks for sharing.,and know we are with you guys supporting you too. I often pray for both of you in middle of night. The best thing I have learned through this journey of loosing 4 parents(a death every 12 weeks for a period of time), inheriting an aunt with memory stuff and moving her three times in one yr. and then Mark being diagnosed all while fixing up and selling our home and fixing my parents home and buying their’s..is it His Grace in THE MIdst..this is part my book title and journey over last few yrs.

    We somlove you both and send big hugs. Psalm 107:20 is our agreement prayer:)

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    1. Thank you Theresa for your words. They have touched my heart!

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  8. Thank you for your story! It helps to read from people going through the same thing.

    Just wanted to add.. you are a great writer. Great writers don’t follow the rules of writing necessarily.. they write like people actually think and feel.. whether or not it follows some rulebook. For example, ” It can’t be cancer. It can’t be cancer. It can’t be cancer. ” Those lines put the reader right inside your feelings at the moment.

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  9. Caroline, I have been following Ryan’s videos and just found the blog. I love your writing and when you joined him in the video the other night. I am a 4+ yrs cancer survivor who chose no chemo or radiation. I just want to encourage you to continue to do what God has called you to!!!

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