Called to Lose

I remember the phone call.

We were just leaving our small group, saying goodbye to our friends, when an ER doctor called to speak to my husband Marlowe. It was May 2017. The doctor told Marlowe the pain he had experienced a few days earlier was not kidney stones but a tumour. Our previous year finally started to make sense…

For a year Marlowe had struggled with mental illness and diabetes. Little did we know it all stemmed from a 10-pin bowling ball sized tumour on his left adrenal glad. Our adrenal glands sit on top of each kidney. They produce hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Basically, Marlowe’s body had been flooded with flight or fight hormones and was causing a lot of crazy things to happen to him.

On August 31, 2017 he had surgery to remove the tumour along with his left kidney. Two specialized surgeons were on hand in case any other organs like the pancreas or bowel were involved with the tumour. Miraculously they were not. We thought he was free and clear, until the surgeon told us that cancer was found in one lymph node. One lymph node is enough.

Marlowe was diagnosed with Stage 3 Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma; a very rare form of cancer that only one in a million get. If it spreads, the odds of surviving are 5%. The biggest reason why the prognosis is so dismal is because there is very little research regarding this cancer. How can doctors do extensive research when only one in a million get it?

After being referred to an oncologist and having a very frank conversation with him, Marlowe chose to take a drug derived from DDT to hopefully stop the very aggressive cancer from coming back.

Fast forward to January 2018.

After a month of asking for a CT scan from worry that the cancer had come back, we got the life-shattering news that it had. And it had spread to his lungs, liver and was growing back at the surgery site.

I remember I was working the day Marlowe had to go to the doctor for the results. I wanted to know as soon as he found out, even if I had work to finish. He called just as I was finishing up. I left work in tears.

I was mad. Livid. Devastated. And very very angry at God.

As I drove to the doctor, I screamed and screamed in my vehicle. All the way to Cancer Care I screamed at God for letting this happen. When I got there, I could barely look at Marlowe. I just wanted to throw a chair through the window. I sent a text to my best friends that the cancer was back. And then we spoke to the Marlowe’s doctor.

She confirmed all my worst fears. The cancer was terminal. There was very little they could do. They gave him 6-9 months to live. I cried and cried. I kept telling her that I was only 36 and Marlowe was only 38 and we have a 9-year-old daughter! How could this be happening?!?

We were so broken but were being held together by Jesus and the absolutely mind-blowing amount of people who love us. With the help of some of the most incredible friends and family, we went on a week-long trip, to swim, shop, skate, and BANFF!!

The very week we got back from Alberta, Marlowe started chemotherapy. It was four consecutive days of three types of chemo every three weeks. He took chemo like a walk in the park! He was a miracle!!

When there was no hope Marlowe saw Jesus. When doctors said he would only get worse, he said “not today!!” My incredible man was told on his 39th birthday (May 22, 2018) that his treatment was working and the tumours were shrinking! The doctor was well-pleased and had never seen a person respond so well to this treatment with this type of cancer. Best news we could’ve hoped for!

I started to think that maybe God wanted to heal him! He does miracles everyday! Why wouldn’t he pick Marlowe to heal? Marlowe is the most loving and kind man I have ever met - the perfect person to miraculously heal! But that was not the case.

In August 2018, almost one year since the surgery, we were told the chemo was not working anymore. His clinical trial was over. But they were not giving up! The oncologist had found other kinds of chemo to try! We willingly tried them, but to no avail.

On September 16, 2018, Marlowe had a stroke. We were on our way to Hecla Resort for our 14th wedding anniversary, when I noticed that he couldn’t speak properly. An ambulance ride to Selkirk hospital and a CT scan later, we were sent on our way. Marlowe had regained his speech and there was no brain bleed, so we were good to go.

Since then Marlowe has had another stroke and has considerably declined in health. He is not only a Cancer Care patient but a palliative care patient as well. I have been off work now for 3 weeks to be at home and care for him. And I don’t regret it for a moment. He is my life. I love him deeply. I love to care for him as he has cared for me the last 14-years of our lives together.

Late this past summer, I recall sitting in a church service. I cannot for the life of me remember what that sermon was about, but I can recall the moment I knew without a doubt that God was calling us to something much bigger than ourselves. The pastor was talking about losing. He gave the example of an election – how many candidates could all be called by God to run for a public office, but inevitably, some would lose. How could God be calling all of them to run? Surely someone must be wrong! Then the pastor said that maybe God was calling some of them to lose to show that He still has purpose, a plan and glory even when we lose.

I knew in that moment that God was calling my family to lose and that everyone would be watching us. It was up to us how we were going to lose and what kind of glory that would bring to Jesus.

Throughout all of this, I have maintained my serving roles at church as a small group leader and worship leader. People often ask me: “Meg, how do you do this?” Most of the time I just shrug and say “I don’t know!” Sometimes I say Jesus. Actually, I think it’s a combination of many things, but there are two reasons that stand out to me the most:

First, I come from a long line of resilient, strong, fierce and independent women that I’m very sure will continue through our daughter.

And second, and most important, is worship. I couldn’t do this without worship. Weekly singing in my church choir, being surrounded by many voices, but above all praising the name of Jesus and declaring that He. Still. Is. Good.

Even though my husband is dying at 39-years of age. Even though I’m scared to death of being alone. Even though our daughter will only have known her daddy for 10 short years. I will still praise His name. I will praise His name over and over and over and I will never stop. He has us surrounded, by LITERALLY a THOUSAND people, who pray for us, love us, bless us and listen to us.

We are surrounded by Him.

After Marlowe’s second stroke, we were waiting in Emergency for the doctor. So many people had called or text to see how Marlowe was doing. We looked at each other and asked "How do we deserve this love?" We are baffled and perplexed by the outpouring of love that seems to have flooded our lives!

From the moment we found out, our church has lovingly held us and given us so much. I don’t know how anyone could walk this journey without the church body. If ever there was an earthly entity that could be the hands and feet of Jesus; the church is it.

I have cried thousands of tears, my heart has groaned for Jesus to help me, to heal Marlowe, to make life right again and He has abundantly blessed us with the most incredible church family. This is His provision. This is His unfailing goodness.

No matter how awful things have gotten we have never been alone. We don’t have to worry about a thing! It has already been taken care of. We are spending our time that is left together, doing the things we love and being with the people who love us.

I don’t know what the rest of this journey will look like. And I may just completely fall apart before this is over. But right now, I know that Jesus loves me, He is with me, He has never left me and I will let His glory be seen through our little broken but fiercely loved family.

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