by Cathy Butler Palmer
About six months after moving to the North Georgia Mountains in 2010, my husband, David, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The oncologist to whom he was referred said that it was slow-moving cancer and that treatment was not necessary until it became aggressive. (This advice is no longer correct.)
In the fall of 2013, David awoke one morning with terrible pain and went straight to the ER. After tests revealed a large mass in his abdomen, he was sent to Atlanta, via ambulance, for treatment. After two 72-hour, round-the-clock chemo treatments, it was determined that the chemo was only making David weaker. So, after being hospitalized from mid-October until January 15, David was sent home.
It was then that we decided to switch doctors. A wonderful doctor at Emory helped David and me to better understand that further chemo was not an option. He suggested that David apply for a clinical trial, which was already proving to be effective for several participants in that study. But to do so, required that David had to first undergo two full days of in-hospital testing, ending with a 24-hour urine test that David could have completed for himself at home. But on April 10, 2014, when David wasn’t able to output any urine for that test, I drove him back down to Emory, thinking that perhaps he had become dehydrated.
I decided to email a close friend and ask her to pray for David, as I felt that David had taken a turn for the worse. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me back, saying that God had given her the words turn around to keep praying for him. As I then continued to pray the words turn around, in hopes that he would get better, I would then share her words with David.
He was catheterized, and they pumped 12 liters of fluids into him through an IV. But when that was unsuccessful, they took him in for a CT Scan, which later showed that his kidneys had shut down. No one told me anything about what was happening, except for one kind nurse. After she had asked me about family and friends, I accepted her strong suggestion and called all of the family to come in.
My son Andrew and David’s best friend, Bob, were there almost immediately. By about 7:00 PM, all three of David’s sons had arrived. And during that whole day, though he was very weak, David was still completely alert and talking. By 12:30 AM, though, when David’s daughters arrived from New York and Washington, he could no longer keep his eyes wide open. But still, he knew that they were both present there with him, and he said to them each the words that he had wanted to say to them. Jennifer—the daughter who ministers to others— said the 23rd Psalm with David, and he was able to say every other line to them. (Later at David’s memorial in Atlanta, Jennifer and her husband, who is also a minister, said the 23rd Psalm in tandem.)
For the rest of that night, I was up with David, sitting on his bed and holding his back, trying my best to help him breathe better. But about 3:00 AM, when the nurse came in to give him a shot of insulin that morning, and I explained to her that he did not—as far as I then knew—have diabetes, she only said that David needed the shot.
In general then, so that you too will know, was that from this point forward in telling David’s particulars, David’s liver, too, was then also failing him. By 4:30 AM he was coded, and about 30 people rushed into the room. Because one of the students was able to get a faint blood pressure reading, they rushed David into ICU. That’s when the wheels came off, for as soon as the doctors gave him a drug to reverse the morphine and wake him up, David began screaming at me to give him a pain pill. “I KNOW you have them in your purse,” he said. He even bit me on the arm, as I was trying to help calm him down.
At that point I said that this is NOT what I had been told would happen at the end, then I added that I wanted him comfortable NOW.
A doctor then wanted to discuss “our options,” and I told him that I had no options.
The doctors walked out, a nurse gave him a shot of morphine and left. Only one technician remained in the room with me. I was talking to David, aware that he was now calm. Watching the monitors, the tech told me to keep talking to him, because he could tell that David could hear me. The time just then was 5 minutes to six AM.
At that point, I said to David, “David, Jesus loves you, and so do I. I’m going to be OK. It’s time for you to ‘turn around.’”
The love of my life took a deep breath, turned around, and saw Jesus.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, the two words from God that were spoken through my friend would give me the peace I so needed to help me through the worst time of my life.
Five minutes to six is 5:55 AM.
[NOTE: If you are not aware of the significance of triple-digit numbers in the lives of Cathy P., Sue C., and Cathy S., then please click below to read the story entitled “Signs,” from The Promise of the Cross, and then Sue’s story called “Double-Doubles.” This testimony by Cathy Palmer also has a strong connection to “Only Believe . . .”]