By Kelly Slocum
My parents had been married for 41 years when both had to undergo biopsies for cancer at the same time. My father was the strong, stoic type and seemed relatively unalarmed about his diagnosis of prostate cancer. My mother, whose diagnosis was for breast cancer, had lost her mother to cancer as a teenager. She was terrified by the thought that either she or Dad might have this dreaded disease.
My siblings and I supported them as best we could. Despite our caring, none of us had ever experienced cancer or the fear a biopsy patient feels while waiting for results. We didn’t know how to help them cope with the fear and tension.
During a visit to Mom’s doctor a week before her biopsy, my parents met another couple, and the four began a friendly conversation. The woman, Jane, immediately began to encourage Mom, telling her how wonderful the doctor was. She explained he had performed her biopsy some weeks earlier and would shortly be performing her mastectomy. Jane had breast cancer! When my parents asked how Jane was doing, she and Steve explained how they were looking forward to shopping for new hats for Jane to wear after she lost her hair. Everything this couple said was upbeat, positive and encouraging. They gave my parents the feeling that everything would be just fine.
Later that same day, Jane phoned my Mom. The two talked for over an hour, Jane explaining to Mom what she could expect from the biopsy, helping her deal with fear of the unknown by sharing her firsthand experiences. As before, Jane helped Mom in a way no one else could — because she knew what Mom was going through. In the short time they had spoken, this powerful woman shared her strength with my mother, doing her best to ensure Mom was able to approach the possibility of cancer with strength.
The day of Mom’s biopsy was also the day my father was to learn his biopsy results. While Mom was in surgery Dad would be meeting with his doctor. When Mom and Dad walked into the medical office they were stunned to see Jane and Steve sitting in the waiting room. They had come to sit with my father while Mom was in surgery. Even though Mom’s surgery was delayed a few hours, they stayed. It was clear that no matter what my parents experienced, this incredible couple had decided they would be there. Although Jane herself was about to undergo radical treatment for breast cancer, those two wonderful people has focused their attention on others who needed help.
Fate smiled on my parents that day. Their biopsies demonstrated that neither had cancer. Perhaps more impressively, though, the human spirit soared that day, thanks to a couple with the willingness to share a strength they would both need in the days to come, because they met two people they felt needed it more.