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Fantastic! As a pediatrician and as a parent, I urge you to read this book. God's greatness is seen throughout as we observe real parents and a real adolescent struggling with very real tragedy. Devouring page after page, I was inspired with great lessons about parenting, godliness, grieving, and endurance. May we all grow to share Darryl's eternal perspective.
Phil Fischer, MD Professor of Pediatrics Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota USA
This book is a victorious cancer story without parallel. Darryl used suffering as a backboard for proclaiming the joy of Christian victory. His disease and demise are an excellent lesson to teach us that "all preachers do not have a three piece suit and an ordination certificate." It is an easy read and will stimulate your own witness.
Chuck Davis National Representative Africa Inland Mission
Darryl never felt sorry for himself no matter how bad the physical pain. He was acutely aware of the pain Jesus suffered for our eternal salvation. This wonderful life-changing book touched my life and made me want to be more open to share my faith.
Lorrie Waldroup LVN Clinic Nurse Covenant Village of Turlock
Told with such authenticity, vulnerability, and sensitivity, this is not the story of love enshrined, but rather of love enfleshed. Inspiring to the very core, Darryl's story as written on his mother's heart and shared on the printed page has a message which will be personalized in the life of every reader. Caring now for the chronically and terminally ill, Rose and I are once again ministered to greatly by these godly friends...
Dr. John B. Aker CEO The Aker Kasten Home Health Care Agency Boca Raton, Florida
Colorful wax trickled down the knobby sides of the candle in our dimly lit dining room. That previously unlit white Christmas tree candle with embedded multicolored balls had been our Christmas dinner table centerpiece for several years but, for this occasion, I decided to light it. Something compelled me to change tradition by striking a match to our treasured possession.
Today we celebrated. It was Christmas Eve—the day our family traditionally remembered Christmas. But more importantly, Darryl, our thirteen-year-old son had been released from the hospital. After six months of examining and probing, doctors felt confident that they had finally discovered the reason for the periodic pain in his neck. They removed his sub-maxillary salivary gland, generating hope for Darryl's full recovery. No doubt, he would soon be back to his usual energetic self. With relief, we brought Darryl home from the hospital the morning of December 24. He had a huge bandage on his neck covering the incision from surgery completed three days earlier. Although he couldn't move his head very fast, he appeared to be on the mend.
Darryl had purchased Christmas gift s early with money earned on his paper route. In spite of his long illness and time spent in the hospital, he was ready. His evident eagerness rippled through the family as we enjoyed this rare occasion of having our whole family together. Charlotte, Ray and Tim, our older children, had driven home from Biola College in California; Darryl's younger sisters, Faith and Susan, were on vacation from elementary school. Following family tradition, we sat down to an elegant Christmas Eve dinner, each one wearing something red or green to make the occasion more festive. I put the ornate Christmas candle in its usual place, but this year we watched the candle burn as we ate our meal. As the flame reached the first colored balls, streams of mixed colors slithered down the tree, unlocking the beauty hidden inside.
We chatted, sharing experiences of recent months—our conversation enhanced by the beauty of that changing candle producing a striking display before us. After dinner, everyone joined in the clean-up process before gathering around our fragrant Christmas tree. Before any gift s were opened, we made it a practice to remember the real reason for the season by reading Luke 2—that awesome story about the birth of Jesus; and we took time to thank God for His great gift.
Darryl entered into this time of remembrance with reverence, but when we completed reading we again noted his exuberance. He couldn't wait. He didn't care about what he might receive. He eagerly looked forward to sharing the things he had lovingly purchased to give. He gave his youngest sister, Susan, a toy Easy Bake oven that really baked small cakes and brownies. Faith, four years older than Susan, received a tiny toy sewing machine that actually sewed. Together with his older brother Ray, Darryl gave Dad a power keyhole saw. I received a lovely lace tablecloth.
To watch Darryl's elation as each of us opened his gift s gave me a feeling of intense fulfillment. What a privilege to see a child mature from the "gimme" stage to the "I want to give you" stage. "He is going to be some man when he grows up," I mused quietly to myself.
Christmas Day brought more joyous merriment. We shared a scrumptious turkey dinner, savoring animated conversation after months of separation. What precious time we shared together. But, as the week continued, dark clouds broke into our lives. Darryl approached me one evening to reveal red blotches erupting on his body. He then added that many of his glands seemed to be swollen. "Whatever could this new turn of events mean," I wondered.
I quickly called Dr. Dragel, the surgeon who had operated on Darryl. I explained Darryl's symptoms and he told me to contact our family doctor. I made an appointment with Dr. Kurtz for late afternoon on the following day. Our older children planned to leave for California after lunch that day and I didn't want to miss any time with them.
The morning bustled with activity as three college kids prepared to leave. Ray even put some finishing touches on a term paper due on the day he returned to school. Since they planned to depart around one o'clock, we traded our usual evening dinner with a big meal at noon to provide an added boost for their travels. I wanted them to leave with full stomachs since I oft en felt concerned about their eating; college expenses kept them on a tight budget. As they prepared to leave after dinner, the boys discovered a car problem. They had to make repairs before they could go and were still working on the car when I took Darryl to the doctor at 3:30. Since they intended to be gone when we returned, we said our "good byes" as Darryl and I left.
Dr. Kurtz greeted me and then took Darryl into the examining room alone. As the minutes ticked on, growing concern gripped me. What's taking so long? What's wrong? Finally, Darryl returned and Dr. Kurtz asked to talk to me alone. My fears rapidly increased and seemed to confirm my suspicions. There must be something drastically wrong. Offering me a chair, Dr. Kurtz with whom we had a trusting relationship, looked into my face and then to the floor as if to gain time for what he had to tell me. At last, he shared what he had found.
"Mrs. Stranske," he began, pausing, "I examined Darryl with great care. I found that he is abnormally large for his age and the point of development he is at sexually. I am quite sure that he has some type of lymphoma. Because of the New Years holiday followed by the weekend, it would do no good to put him in the hospital now. Nothing in the way of diagnostic testing is done in the hospital over a weekend like this. So we will admit him to Porter Hospital on Monday morning to verify what is happening. I hope that tests will prove me wrong, but I don't think they will. At this point, please don't tell Darryl what I have told you. We want to have a definitive diagnosis first."
Thoughts crashed through my mind a million miles a minute. Lymphoma! Since medical things have always interested me, I knew what that meant. Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph system. Why did this shocking news have to break into the end of this idyllic Christmas? Why did such a horrible sentence have to enter into our lives at all—ever! Maybe Dr. Kurtz was wrong. Hadn't he suggested this only as a possibility? Maybe, just maybe, he was mistaken. Maybe, it only looked like lymphoma. Even that ray of hope didn't remove the lump from my throat or take away the feeling that I'd been hit with a ton of bricks.
"Thank you, Dr. Kurtz," I said and walked into the waiting room where Darryl sat looking at a magazine. "Okay Honey, let's go," I said as I started toward the car. Our appointment had been late and darkness descends early on Denver in December. Thankful for that early darkness, I felt it might help me hide my feelings from Darryl.
He waited until we were in the car and driving home before Darryl questioned, "Mom, why did Dr. Kurtz want to talk to you alone?"
Now my thoughts began racing again. "Why hadn't I anticipated this question?" I scolded myself. We had always been open and above-board in our family, so how could I answer such a question when the doctor had given specific instructions that I shouldn't tell Darryl what he had told me? Guardedly I replied, "Well Darryl, he just wanted to talk to me about your physical condition."
"What did he say?" Darryl pumped.
"He said that he is not sure what is wrong, but he wants to put you in the hospital again on Monday for more tests."
"But why couldn't I be there? It was about me," Darryl prodded, increasing the pressure.
"Darryl," I replied, "Sometimes a doctor wants to talk to a mother alone. This was one of those times, so let's leave it at that." Darryl remained very quiet the rest of the way home. With his sharp mind working overtime, he recognized that something was radically wrong.
To my total surprise, I found our college kids still at home when we arrived. The boys had finally worked through the problem with the car and scrambled to finish their repairs as we drove into the driveway. Th is half-day delay put added pressure on them to leave quickly in order to get back to California in time to resume responsibilities at school.
I pulled Charlotte into the bedroom with me as soon as we got into the house and told her what Dr. Kurtz had said. A look of deep pain spread across her face. As a graduate nurse, she understood the implications of lymphoma. Without hesitation she made her way into the garage to share the sad news with her brothers. I drew my husband, Harvey, aside and shared the negative report with him. We couldn't cry. We had to keep up a front before Darryl and the two younger girls. Each of us found it difficult to dam up those feelings and pretend that everything was fine. Both our smiles and our conversation became wooden.
We had soup for a quick supper. This pleased me since I didn't feel up to making or eating our normal dinner meal. My stomach felt full of rocks. The hot soup soothed my aching mind and body.
Before we left the table, we did something we had not done before. It seemed so appropriate right then. We joined hands and together sang the old hymn, Blest Be the Tie that Binds:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love!
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father's throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hope, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
The pathos of that moment left us with deep emotional feelings; tears trickled down our faces. That experience remains etched on my mind as if inscribed with indelible ink. After singing those words a settled peace came over me. I reflected on the closeness of our family and the inner strength that brought. Beyond the support drawn from a loving family, that peace involved more than human relationships. Our Father in Heaven had taken care of us in the past, and I knew we could trust Him now. As the song instructs, we needed to pour out our prayers before our Father's throne and believe God's promises to us. We needed to rest on those eternal truths.
My thoughts flashed back to our Christmas Eve dinner. I pondered my decision to burn the candle.
The inner beauty of our candle had not been visible apart from the destructive flame. Was there some special meaning in this? Was this an omen of coming events? Was Darryl's life going to melt away in the same way the candle had begun to dissolve? Would I have the privilege of seeing this fine son grow to manhood as I had anticipated a few short days ago? Then I thought of that momentous time when Darryl came into this world. God gave Darryl to us as a special gift . He had answered prayer and worked miraculous healing in my body that allowed Darryl to come into being. Wouldn't He preserve the gift He had given to us?
"Oh, it's so good to hear a baby cry! You say it's a boy? That's just what I wanted," I said as everyone in the delivery room scurried around to take care of this newborn and his mother. I already had three beautiful children, ages seven, eight and nine—two of whom were boys. But the cry of this newborn boy was an unexpected miracle.
We were missionaries in Africa and two years earlier I had given birth to another baby—a tiny little boy—in Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan. During that pregnancy, I had a severe case of toxemia and the doctor had ordered a huge dose of morphine the evening before I delivered to keep me from going into eclampsia. That medication sealed the fate of our baby. The doctor explained that he had not expected him to be born alive anyhow. My illness had kept nourishment from getting to his little body to enable him to grow. Baby Donny only lived for six hours. The hospital staff had little knowledge of how to care for a 3frac12;-pound baby. The hospital had no incubator and no oxygen.
I failed to respond in normal fashion after the baby's birth. My kidneys continued to malfunction. In most cases toxic conditions subside after the baby is born but my problems persisted. Completing an examination, the doctor informed me that my illness had damaged my kidneys beyond repair. He then added the ominous words that I should never plan to have another child. His devastating pronouncement made my grieving for the tiny baby that I had lost even more heart-wrenching.
Circumstances surrounding this excruciating period added to my despair and prevented vital healing. For some months before the baby's delivery, Harvey and I had temporarily resided in Khartoum to enable Harvey to work on Arabic language projects. Two months before my due date, we left Khartoum to travel to Doro in the southern Sudan. We planned to arrive just in time to meet our two oldest children, Char and Ray (ages seven and six) who were returning from boarding school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; they had been away from home for nine months. MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) would fly them to Doro, the closest airstrip to our home in Wadega. We would then drive the remaining forty-two miles to Wadega.
It took three days to make the four-hundred-mile trip from Khartoum to Doro, a grueling journey under the best of circumstances. Being pregnant and not feeling well made the trip even more difficult. I had noticed that my legs were swollen before we left Khartoum but had not asked a doctor about it. I reasoned that the doctor who would deliver our baby lived in Doro, and I would see him when we picked up our children.
Arriving in Doro, we watched with delight as the small MAF plane descended, bringing back Char and Ray. In the excitement of reuniting with them and the hubbub of getting ready to go on to Wadega, I almost forgot about the problem with my swollen legs. At the last minute I asked our mission doctor, Reuben Balzer, about it. A quick exam changed all of our plans. He discovered albumin in my urine and that my blood pressure was out of control.
Dr. Balzer told me that it would be unsafe to travel and ordered me to bed. Spending more than a month in bed in Doro did not improve my toxemia. As the time approached, Dr. Balzer decided that he couldn't take responsibility for delivering our baby. He did not have necessary equipment to meet anticipated emergency needs, so he ordered me flown back to Khartoum to be cared for in the British government hospital.
MAF flew our family back to Khartoum and I was taken directly to the hospital. Our little Donny began his brief stay on earth the following morning. It seemed that I started on the road to recovery but then, because of decisions made for our family, my health deteriorated.
Less than a week after my discharge from the hospital, our mission leaders decided that Harvey needed to be at our annual field conference back in the remote region of Doro. The agenda included evaluating the use of Sudanese Colloquial Arabic in tribal ministries. Harvey had studied Colloquial Arabic extensively and had begun to translate the Gospel of John, a project that would benefit all missions working in the southern Sudan. He was also experimenting with the possible use of Arabic script in writing tribal languages. With that background, mission leadership felt it necessary for him to participate in these vital discussions. I was neither strong enough to travel nor sufficiently recovered to risk being in a secluded mission station without emergency medical facilities. Therefore, I would need to stay in Khartoum with our three children.
I was still not well enough to care for our children. Fellow missionaries assured both Harvey and me that they would watch them while he was away. Our friends meant well and tried to care for our children but they were all busy with a multitude of other responsibilities. They didn't need or have time for the extra burden of three active, young children. Harvey's departure was difficult for our children. Charlotte and Ray were currently "home" for three months of treasured vacation from boarding school but because of my illness, they never reached our home during that break. Instead, we needed to stay at the mission station near medical help for my sake.
This certainly wasn't the vacation that two homesick kids had been anticipating. All the disruption did not make them the most cooperative children in the world either. Looking out from my bed through the curtained window I saw those three precious children walk by with uncombed hair and unhappy faces, and my heart cried out, "Whatever is going to happen to those kids?" How I longed for needed strength to care for them. I struggled physically and emotionally in my weakened condition as my distraught mind grappled with more than I could handle.
Excerpted from DON'T CALL ME POOR by EVADENE STRANSKE Copyright © 2012 by Evadene Stranske. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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