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"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

June 12, 2007

This journey to Rwanda took an unexpected detour in May. Our son Jacques saw a doctor about a lump on the side of his neck. A series of tests kept giving all of us a more and more frightening picture of his health. I watched the needle biopsy performed on the tumour. It was inconclusive. Then an M.R.I. scan and an open biopsy followed by more waiting for results from the lab. Just watching him wake from a general anesthetic was unnerving. This child of ours, now thirty-four and married with two little girls. We’d had some scares with him growing up , but nothing like this. Cancer was becoming more and more the uninvited guest at the door.

Rwanda became less important. Was my son going to have something that would kill him? Was he going to be in pain? What would become of his family, his wife Lesley, the little girls Isabelle 4 years and Kyrielle 1 1/2 years. People who had been through the waiting told us this was the most difficult time even compared to a long treatment of the unspeakable word that was on our tongues but we too afraid to be say. Not our kid. Not in our house. But it came anyway. Hodgkin’s lymphoma Stage 2 type A. The doctor said you don’t get much better odds of survival than he will have of being treated and cured (90-95%). I know then I thought, “The trip to Rwanda is back on”. Then I watched the bone marrow biopsy. He said it wasn’t as bad as getting a filling in a tooth. For years he’s dealt well with the pain of power tool injuries on his job. Now in two days he would start 6 months of Chemotherapy. A series of four drugs administered every two weeks. It would take his hair and it would make him feel more and more tired with each session. Some react react, some don’t, we were advised. Where would he fall? He always managed to work with a hangover we reasoned. Maybe the nausea won’t bother him. The evening after his first treatment, he went out with Lesley for a nice dinner. Next day we all went to the Yellow Springs Street Fair. Sunday morning , 5:00AM, at his request, we went fishing. He caught the biggest bass of his life. We drove the 40 miles home, elated. Sunday afternoon it finally hit him. He was extremely tired and slept all afternoon and night. On Monday he said he felt at about 75% of his normal self. Wednesday evening he said he was having trouble thinking under pressure at work.

But I’m going. How can I rationalize going to Africa in a land of turmoil at a time like this?


Well, the turmoil thing is slowing down. I’m not worried about my personal safety. I’m more worried about Marie’s safety in the job she does in the inner city as an outreach minister. The police go with caution in some of the places she works. So how can I leave my son? Because I know I’m not leaving him alone. He has a good network around him. Marie has already done a lot of babysitting when he goes to appointments. He has Lesley and he has an understanding employer, willing to take care of his interests. He hasn’t said, “Dad, you should go.” But he hasn’t given me the look that says, “Stay”. He won’t even be finished with half his Chemo when I get back at the end of August. I’ll be here for the worst part. I’m sure it will be a shock to see him after seven weeks. It may be a shock to see me too. I usually lose a lot of weight on a trip like this.

A good friend of ours, Shelly Knupp , who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zimbabwe several years after we had been there is also fighting a tough cancer. She recenty switched professions from chemical engineer to dietician. Shelly has encouraged Jacques with dieting and getting more toward a vegetarian regime. He got into that when he first thought he was sick. He’s backsliding a little, but I think it is only temporary.

 

 

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