September, 2001 | Jan Harley

Al and I were immensely enjoying our visit together.  It was hard to believe I had only been at his home for several days, because it seemed much longer with so many activities to keep us busy.  I had the privilege of seeing Al’s day-to-day life and meeting so many wonderful friends of his.

A group of us were all sitting around the kitchen table laughing and joking, when Al’s son yelled out, “Hey Jan, you have a call.  The man says he is Nicole’s Dad.”  I thought to myself, “Why is he calling me here? What in the world could this be about?”

I spoke into the phone, “Hi, what’s going on?” Nicole’s Dad responded, “It’s Nicole. She had a check-up at the Mayo Clinic. They are worried the tumor in her left leg has returned. They are going to operate on the site tomorrow and extract tissue to perform a biopsy. The doctors at Mayo Clinic are saying it could be malignant this time.”

A colossal wave of anxiety came over me as my mind flashed back to two years ago. Nicole was eight years old and we were on our way to her softball game, her favorite sport. Since we were running late, I told Nicole to grab her stuff and run to the field. As she did, she tripped and fell down a hill and sprained her ankle. Her Dad took her to the doctor for an x-ray to see if she had broken any bones. Instead, they found an egg-sized tumor in her tibia bone just above her left ankle. A miraculous discovery. A biopsy followed, where they scraped out as much of the cells as possible. The doctors were split 50/50 on whether it was malignant or benign and so we were told to watch it. 

This news of its recurrence hit me hard and fast. Do you know that wave? It embraces your body with a slow and methodical squeeze then capsizes your entire being into a twisting, turning tunnel that you can’t find your way out of.  Gasping for breath from my free ride on the wave, I found myself saying in short bursts, “What did you say? Tumor? Malignant? Operation? When? Nicole?”

Nicole’s Dad ended the conversation by saying, “If you want to be with Nicole when she wakes up from the operation, she will be at the Mayo Clinic’s Methodist Hospital in Rochester tomorrow morning around 8:00am.” The sound of free air space from the phone now buzzed into my ear as I stared off into space.

“What did Nicole’s Dad have to say?” asked Al in his sweet and caring manner. I choked out a faint but firm response, “It’s Nicole, her physician has found a tumor in her leg. They are going to operate on her tomorrow morning and perform a biopsy on the site. I must leave immediately.”

The busy conversations that just minutes ago were cheerfully humming along, suddenly stopped and the room was now silent.  I closed my eyes and tears welled up and burned my eyelids.  I told myself to be strong, that you have experienced challenges in your life and you will get through this. But, at that moment, all I could see was Nicole’s young and sweet soft face.  I felt instant fear and desperation.  A river of tears began flowing and I pleaded; “God, please don’t do this. I can’t handle anything bad when it comes to my daughter.  God, please, I will do anything for you to take this situation away.  God you can transfer the tumor to me and I will deal with it. Please be fair and don’t subject my sweet, young, innocent daughter to anything bad. God, why is this happening to Nicole?”