What’s your limit?

@Bill Watterson, 1986
  • Calvin: How do they know the load limit on bridges, Dad?
  • Calvin’s Dad: They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.
  • Calvin: Oh, I should have guessed.
  • Calvin’s Mom: Dear, if you don’t know the answer, just tell him!

When things start to get a little tough, I turn to humor. I laugh at my situation, at the funny things that happen just because life is… random. I laugh… thanks to the wit of Bill Watterson through his Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. (I know that engineers have a process for determining the weight limit for bridges, but it’s not so easy when it comes to the tolerance of the human heart.)

As a chaplain, I have watched men and women withstand all kinds of struggles and pain. I marvel at their strength, their resilience, and their perseverance. As I listen to their stories, one Truth prevails: “I am not alone,” they say. Whether it is cancer, prolonged illness, a child’s death, or a natural disaster, they cling to their complete and utter trust in Divine Care and Compassion, even when it is unseen.

In James 1:2-4, we read: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (NLT)

The J.B. Phillips translation of James suggests that we welcome trials that “crowd into your life… as friends and not intruders.” That’s a little bit harder to accept, quite honestly. Welcome them? Are you kidding? My clown car is full!!! And yet – in human experience, over and over through the millennia, trials, pain, suffering, fear, and grief… all seem to permeate our existence. Or if not in our own lives at the moment, it is in the evening news or on social media. I know I will be OK, too…

My personal “bridge” isn’t breaking, but it sure feels tested. How many more heavy trucks are going to come rumbling through my life? In the last few weeks here at home, we have had a plumbing disaster and an issue with ductwork causing condensation on a ceiling. It’s literally raining in our downstairs powder room!

Most of you know that my husband, Ken, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February of this year. He is now getting chemo treatments and his cancer is responding. The oncologist is optimistic that we will continue to see his metastases decrease!

My body somehow wanted to get in on the party…

I started spotting in June, had a D&C in July, and was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. I will be having a hysterectomy on August 22nd. Initial scans show no spread to major organs, which is great news. However, the pathology report from the hysterectomy will “stage” my cancer. The kind of cancer I have is extremely rare. It’s called a carcinosarcoma of the uterus or a malignant mixed Mullerian tumor (MMMT), and it occurs in less than 5% of women who are diagnosed with uterine cancer. It is an aggressive beast, so I will be having chemo and possibly radiation treatments, depending on what the pathology report shows.

How are you doing? Really?

I’m all over the map. Frustrated one day. Scared “knitless” the next. Worried and sad for my husband and daughters. Two parents diagnosed with cancer in less than 6 months? That’s a lot. I try to stay focused on the next steps and not overreach today. I’m determined. Focused. And trying to keep life moving along here, as I prepare to be on the sidelines for a few weeks and heal from surgery…

What do you need?

Prayer and more prayer. Evenings are the hardest, when my body is tired, the house is quiet, and my brain is still going 90 mph. I know it’s a human response to this stress, but when my thoughts go off on all of the “what-ifs” and “what-thens” it’s not fun. I have a short fuse. My sleep is interrupted. I get discouraged. I vacillate between songs of hope and peace by Lauren Daigle, and ones of absolute frustration by Thomas Benjamin Wild.

Eventually, I know that we will need more practical helps with household stuff like the fall chores. I will have a lifting limit of less than 5 pounds for several weeks. We have hired a housecleaner which is pricey but worth it, and I count myself privileged to do so. We do have a MealTrain – email me if you are interested and I’ll put you in touch with the coordinator. We will need drivers at some point in the future to get us both to chemo. Just let me know and I’ll add you to the list!

Anything else?

I am blessed beyond measure to have the support of family and friends. I could not imagine working with a more compassionate and caring supervisor and co-workers. The outpouring of love and concerns brings me to tears… So thank you. Thank you for listening, loving, and walking in this valley of the Shadow with me. I truly know I do not walk alone.

I am grateful to God for each one of you, and for the One who holds me…

I remember… I remember You have always been faithful to me…


  1. Ok, That just stinks!!! Now, back to pastor mode. We talk about alternative language for this, but my prayers are with you! We are, most of us, people who believe in prayer. We, again-most of us, don’t presume to know how it works, but we know that that energy of love and caring and HOPE … is out there in the world .. and gratefully some of it is headed our way. When you feel you need it most … know I am sending prayers your way.. with hope and blessings, Catherine


  2. It’s a lame thing to say, but I mean it…hugs and prayers for you!!! Catch and defeat that sarcoma beast before it gets outta control!!!


  3. Yup…testing bridges. If bridges can be reinforced by adding more support…well…maybe our words of empathy and outrage and vulnerability and prayers can be a sort of reinforcement for you, Deb, and your family, especially Ken. I think by now, Godde knows shaking my fist and shouting expletives means me asking, begging, for help. The rant continues…and so do lots of love coming your way from all directions.


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