One of the Scariest Words in our Vocabulary: Cancer

I should’ve known by Monday that the week wasn’t going to go as planned. Sure, a moved hair appointment is a small thing, but I should’ve known.

I got the text in the afternoon: could I do Monday at 6:45 instead of Tuesday at 7? Sure, I sent back. After all, David would be home by then and the nurse who comes to administer my progesterone is long gone by 6:30, I surmised. David was home, but the nurse got detained at the local jail while giving a shot to an inmate (they didn’t want her bringing needles in- that makes the whole shot thing kinda difficult, eh?) so she was late and consequently, so was I. By 9p my husband was calling my phone, sure that I had plummeted my car into a ditch somewhere in the 10 blocks between our home and the salon. The truth was, I was still in foils (for all you male readers, this is what I am talking about)

It had been a long day by the time I went to sleep Monday night, beginning early with Cohen’s pre-kindergarten screening. He was so excited I was sure he’d eventually (literally) start bouncing off of the walls. When the woman who will be his teacher came to get him from the office, he smiled and took her hand and walked right out with her. All I could think was how my baby has gotten so big and grown… where has all the time gone? I didn’t have long to think about it before David and I were whisked into the principal’s office for our interview. We got asked about our jobs and the normal Christian questions we had expected, but then the principal asked what did we want for Cohen when he was 21? Twenty one!?!?! This is pre-kindergarten screening, right? I thought. Not exactly what every mother wants to think about at pre-kindergarten screening- her son being a legal adult, right ladies? Right? I was having a hard time with his not needing me to walk with him to the screening room, I wasn’t ready to muse about him driving and working and going to college and living on his own… whew! I somehow got an answer out without thinking about the someday-reality of it too much. A minute later we were rescued by the return of our son and his new teacher. He had candy in his hand and a toy figurine and a parachute. The teacher was giggling. “He is SO fun” she said at least twice. You have no idea, I thought to myself with a smile. He did well- of course he did not count to ten, but then again what was I expecting? He might’ve taken her hand and been a bucket of creativity and laughs, but he wasn’t going to count for her if he won’t count for me. He’s not all that grown yet. Thank God.

With Tuesday’s hair appointment moved to Monday, there wasn’t supposed to be anything going on Tuesday. But that was before we learned my dad has colon cancer. Sure I knew he was having a colonoscopy. Mom had pulled me aside Sunday and told me dad wasn’t feeling so well, but that he didn’t want anyone to know and I shouldn’t mention it to my siblings. It was probably nothing. By Tuesday morning all my siblings knew the nature of the “not well” dad was feeling and that he’d be having the routine procedure in the morning. (This is how all information- especially the information no one is supposed to know- is transferred in our family. Make a mental note: never tell an Adelsberger a secret about another Adelsberger. We don’t keep secrets from each other well)

I called Aaron around 10a. “You know dad went to the hospital this morning, right?”
“You mean the procedure none of us are suppose to know about? Yeah, I know,” he half joked.
I asked if he had heard anything; he hadn’t.
I asked him to call if he did; he said he would.
He told me to do the same.

I went on to my first and second appointments in the day, over in the Lakeview area. I kept checking my phone for a text from Mom. Nothing. For a family who communicates like we do, I knew that wasn’t a good sign. I had no more than left the little green house where I visit a newborn girl and her mom, when my phone rang. It was Mom… not that I could understand a word she said between her sobs. Not that I needed to, really. When someone calls sobbing to tell you about a colonoscopy, you know in your heart cancer has been found.

I offered to go straight to the hospital. She said Dad wasn’t awake yet and didn’t know and she didn’t want any of us kids there until he did. I got off the phone and called Aaron. We both cleared our schedules for the day and tried to decide whether or not we should go to the hospital anyway. Aaron said we should wait. When I am the bull in the china closet, he’s the one with some sense. I tried to go to my next appointment, but drove around instead… aimlessly for the most part. I thought about the few words I could make out that my mom said: “large mass” “been there 10 years” “very bad news for Dad”. My heart sunk as I thought about colon cancer- treatable if treated soon, right? Isn’t that what I had heard? And didn’t Katie Couric’s husband die very young of it?

My heading was swimming. I needed to keep busy.

I went home and cleaned every single food and cleaning product with preservatives and dyes and things I cannot pronounce out of the house. I had just finished reading a book over the weekend about how our hormones are affected by a number of these non-food chemicals in our “food” and how they cause disease. I had been meaning for a week to get rid of the stuff. And let me tell you, there’s no motivation like thinking someone you love is sick. Cancer runs in my dad’s family. All of his aunts and uncles and his mom and many of his cousins have died from one form or another. Without thinking too much about not wanting to die of cancer and not wanting my dad to die, I just took my nervous energy out on the fridge, pantry and laundry areas of the house.

I called Mom. Dad was coming home to sleep for a few hours before heading back to the doctor for his pre-surgery physical and blood work. They had done body scans and x-rays to look for cancer in other places.

He didn’t want anyone to come to the house.

So I went to the grocery, the health food store, and the Amish market, replacing our food and cleaners with all natural products. By four o’clock dinner was cooking in the oven for the whole family. Aaron and I finally insisted that we were all going to Mom and Dad’s that evening, whether or not he wanted to see anyone. Dad’s 3pm visit with the doctor had been scary. Surgery would be Thursday morning first thing. With the anesthesia wearing off, the reality was hitting home with Dad. He probably didn’t want to see anyone. But we are his kids. We were making dinner and coming over, regardless.

I loaded up the car with food and picked up Cohen from school, holding onto my emotions well enough to try to protect his little heart. On the way to my parents, Beth called. She and Shane and Lucy were coming in Wednesday afternoon and she needed to know if David could pick them up? We talked for awhile. I was careful to use words I thought Cohen wouldn’t understand.

Parking in the driveway, I prepped him… grandpa is sick, don’t jump on him, we aren’t going to be wild, etc. “Mommy, does Grandpa have cancer in his butt?” he innocently asked. I was floored. I had used “colon” and “stool”- how did he get that from what I said? I stared in the backseat at my blue eyed boy, face filled with concern. “Yes, baby. But please don’t say that, ok? It will make him sad.” He nodded his head. I knew what he was thinking. His buddy at school, the janitor, had died less than a month ago of cancer. Cohen had been praying and praying for Charlie and we had talked a lot about cancer. I have learned that with Co, you just have to tell him. If he asks, whatever it is, I just tell him the truth as simply and practically as I can. I had told him that cancer is something that grows in your body that shouldn’t and that sometimes it takes over. We had talked about dying- how everyone eventually will die and that its sad but not scary. He looked out the window while I unbuckled his seat. I knew he was thinking about that.

We all had dinner and Dad hid away in his office until I just went back there. I hugged his neck and I could feel the fear. I don’t think I had ever seen my dad scared before.

Wednesday morning David had his interview (don’t know yet about how it went- he had mixed thoughts about it- I think its up to the Lord ultimately, so we’re not sweating it). Dad was to go and meet the surgeon at 2:30 to discuss the results of the body scan and to go over the details of the surgery. Mom called hours earlier than that. Dad was meeting with Pastor. At Dad’s request.

I was shocked. Now, let me back up. I know that my Dad loves Jesus. No question about it. Even if he had never said that to me or indicated it, his life demonstrates it all the time. My dad is generous, selfless, kind, giving to those who will never be able to repay him… but my dad has also been hurt a lot, especially by other men; especially by spiritual leadership. That sad story too many have, my dad shares in. In particular, when I was very small, my dad had really dove into a church and had gotten involved, only to leave scathed and wounded by the man in charge. Things had never really been the same. Sure he had gone to church with us, but he was hesitant to lean into it and especially hesitant to trust anyone he perceived to be in leadership.

Now, I have made no bones about the fact that I love Pastor Ricks. And I do. He has taken more 2am calls from me than probably either of us would care to recount. He has counseled me right out of those rock and hard place kind of situations. He has been a shepherd and a friend and a father. One of the things our church gets most criticized for in our community is the fact that we love our pastor. Isn’t that sad??? Because his advice is taken and we love to mimmic the sayings he often repeats, we’ve been accused of being a cult. (Not even kidding). David and I laid awake in the bed a few nights ago talking about how sad that is! Shouldn’t loving and trusting your spiritual shepherd be the norm?!?! Why go to a church where you can’t take the advice of your pastor? And how come it is okay to mimmic the sayings of your favorite tv character or political pundit, but not a spiritual leader?

Still… my dad went to church every Sunday with us, but had some of the same distrustfulness of the community. Without ever saying so, we all knew he had his suspicions about pastors in general and Pastor in particular and- well, why can’t people just make their own decisions without asking for wisdom? My dad has always been his own man.

My self-made Dad was meeting with Pastor that I so love and trust. Hope flooded my soul.
I smiled and I could hear the smile in Mom’s voice.

Just before heading over to my parents’ Wednesday evening to meet up with David, the Barnard clan, and the rest of the family, Mom called. Dad’s scans and x-rays were clean. It wasn’t a 100% clean bill, they wouldn’t know for sure sure until the surgery, but it was a very good sign. We ate dinner together, oohed and ahhed over the babies and were just… together. We laid hands and prayed over Dad and he shared things with us that had everyone in tears. It was the sweetest time we’ve ever had as a family.

Earlier in the day Mom had told me that she wouldn’t have traded the last two days for anything in the world. I knew then exactly what she had meant.

Thursday morning we sat with him at the hospital until they took him back for anesthesia. He was nervous, but calm. I couldn’t help but think he looked lighter and clearer than ever before. I couldn’t help but think that maybe even as scary as the word “cancer” is, that maybe this was one of the best things that had ever happened to our family.

The surgery that should’ve lasted 3 hours, only lasted half that long. Dad did better than expected and no cancer was found anywhere else, even in the area directly around the tumor. The “large mass” turned about to be half the size expected and the cancer appears to be slow growing. Dad has a long recovery ahead of him. Major surgery and getting split open is nothing to underestimate, but he’s as good as he has ever been. Maybe better.

A long time ago Pastor preached something that has stuck with me. In talking about how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, he said that we humans just cannot really know if something is good or bad. Sure, cancer sounds bad, but what if God works the circumstance together such that the person while suffering in their body (which, by the way isn’t eternal) gets all kinds of things resolved in their spirit (which, by the way is)? Then is it bad? Or is it a blessing? Or does it fall into the category of those things which were meant for evil, but used by God for good?

So this Sunday morning (with more updates to give you coming soon) I am thanking God that He knows how to love, protect, discipline and ultimately draw, heal and restore those that are His!

**Please be praying for our Dad as he recovers. It is very likely that he won’t have to endure chemotherapy, but physically coming back from the surgery is going to take awhile. He will be off work a minimum of 6 weeks and we’re asking God to give Dad a sweet time of rest and restoration**


  1. So thankful for what the Lord is doing in your family, you and the church we love. Yep, we do love, support and PRAY for our pastor and other leaders, as instructed in the Word of God, for they “will give account for our souls” and we will answer for whether we prayed without ceasing for them, and obeyed their godly counsel. Love you so much and standing w you.

  2. Having a close friend whose mother just passed away from an awful fight with cancer, I am so thankful that things are looking good for your dad. My husband is a 4th year med student and says there are many types of colon cancer, and if your dad’s is a kind that has not metastasized after that long that’s a really great sign. Praying for you all.

  3. oh Kate! What an emotional roller coaster for you and those you love most…

    I can’t imagine how it felt to receive the news…and while reading this, with tears in my eyes, I am so thankful for you and your amazing family. Through fear and tough times, you continue to cling to the One who knows your Father best.

    I will be praying for your Dad…and that this ‘leg’ of his journey will surprise, enlighten, challenge, and be yet another reminder of God’s great love for him.

    thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your life with us…..praying for you all today….entrusting you to the Lord. May He give you His peace….

  4. Isn’t it funny, (not in a ha ha way) but a great and mysterious way how God brings lightness out of the dark, and laughter out of sorrow.

    Will be saying a prayer for your Dad and family. :o )

  5. Wow, Kate. What an emotional post! This hit close to home. My husband’s dad, the most loving, caring, kind, christian man I had ever known, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We lost him a few months after. My Dad died suddenly a couple months later. Needless to say it was a very sad time for our families. But, like you say God always works for the good. I’ve seen the good now and I am continuing to see it as time goes on… One thing I have learned about God is, His comfort and His goodness runneth over, especially when our hearts are so tender and in need. He’s such a good God and I’m so thankful to hear your Dad’s outcome! God clearly has more for him here on earth. I will definitely be praying for him.
    Ps. Is it bad that I envy your church and pastor? I’ve been hurt by our pastor and when you live a life full of hardships you need a pastor to counsel you through… hopefully someday!

  6. Kate, my husband and I will be holding up you & your family in our prayers. So thankful to have such a wonder working God!

    Love to you!

  7. Kate-
    First and foremost I WILL be praying for your dad, and your entire family. This past year my family suffered a great loss, my 16 year old niece to a brain tumor. I know all to well the fear and utter helplessness that comes with the reality that cancer proposes. However, I also know firsthand the healing power that we find in our Lord Jesus! I’m learning that healing can take many forms. I like what you said about “bad” things being used for “good”. Often times we just don’t see the whole picture. Thank you for reminding me that no matter what the outcome {in the here and now} we {I} must remember to cleave to the One who brings protection, healing, restoration and ultimately LOVE.

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I will be praying for your father, mother, and all of your family.

  9. Kate, I am so sorry to hear that. I hate that your family has to go through something as scary as cancer. It is indeed scary, as my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 47. I am hurting with you and praying for your dad.

    Enjoy every moment with your sweet dad, especially the little things. My brother is a sports writer and tells my dad’s story:

    Praying for you all..

  10. Will most certainly be thinking of & praying for your dad & your family. I was almost in tears reading your words as I remember the rollercoaster my family and I went through with my dad several years ago. Our story doesn’t end as well as this, but my dad did know Jesus, so his story certainly ended well! I am so thankful you shared this perspective Kate…

  11. Thank you for sharing with us. Continue to hold steadfast to our Lord and Saviour. And, here are prayers for you dad!

  12. Kate,
    I’m so sorry your dad and family has to endure this. However, I am glad to see your attitude of thanks and hope. I am glad he is doing so well and recovering. I am happy for the restoration and transformation that God is doing in your dad.
    I actually just read this post today and the end of it sparked me on to make an actual blog post out of it myself, “When Bad Really Means Good”. I quoted your ending – I hope you don’t mind. As I wrote in my post, I am praying for your dad and family – praying Eph. 3:16-21 over you all.
    Hugs & blessings.

  13. marinda – well, the past five years for me, as you know, were totally life chnnaigg. some of which, i thought for a while were bad, a test, punishment.. but thinking back, now i know it was all worth it.for the past five years i am thankful for: being in the air force, meeting and marrying derek, for our kids malia and auren. and im super super thankful that on the 28th of this month, derek will be getting baptized and soon after that we will be able to offer malia and auren!

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