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“A love we can live with”

Delvyn C. Case, Jr., M.D.
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Dr. Delvyn C. Case, Jr. received his undergraduate degree from Brown University, medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, and post-doctoral training from Cornell University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  He has practiced Hematology/Oncology in Portland and Scarborough, Maine at the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and Blood Disorders for thirty-two years.  He has written 300 cancer research papers.  He is now consultant to the Chaplaincy Program in the Department of Pastoral Services at the Maine Medical Center.


Dr. Case has had letters and articles on science and religion published in a number of national magazines including Christianity Today and Physician.  He is a contributing columnist for Reflections in the Religion section of the Portland Press Herald, writing a bi-monthly column since 1997.  He has received awards for his writing from the Portland Press Herald, and Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. He is a previous Amy Writing Award winner.


Dr. Case has been a dramatist since 1995.  He is Director of Drama Ministry, First Baptist Church, Portland, Maine.  At the church, he has produced and directed many of his short and full-length plays.  A number of his plays have been published by Drama Source.  Dr. Case has also received a number of awards at national meetings and his plays have been produced at other churches and by other production companies in 21 states, England, Europe, and Africa.


This was to be a terrible day for Kate.  The results from the x-rays and CT scans arrived in the mail.  Each piece of information made the outcome for Kate more ominous. Sixteen years ago Kate struggled through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant as well as the death of her first husband.  Now she was enjoying a comfortable life with her second husband and delighting in her extensive verdant garden.


Kate knew something was wrong these past six weeks. Her diet was too successful.  She lost twenty pounds yet her abdomen was swelling.  She was unable to attend the budding grapes in the arbor along her house.  Her husband called to set up tests and an appointment.  Kate did not expect good news.


Entering the examining room, I exchanged pleasantries with Kate. With my hand holding critical information, my remarks about the perennials in her garden seemed hollow and cruel.  I tried to smile but knew I could not hide my feelings.  Kate knew it.  As I began my avalanche of bad news, Kate's demeanor changed abruptly.  She looked around the room as if looking for solace and comfort.  Finding none she could not cope with my litany of measurements of lymph nodes, number of treatments needed, and statistics of survival.  She stood up and bolted for the door.  As she reached for the door knob, she exclaimed, “I want my husband to hear all this” and rushed out into the hallway.


Leaning against the computer shelf, I was haunted by what has happened to many of my patients over the years.  I have had numbers of patients bear the news of diagnosis and treatment alone.  One patient who endured the effects of repeated chemotherapy over five years expired in the hospital without a visitor.  After she died, her husband called volunteering, “I want to take care of my wife now.”  I was not aware she was married!  Other patients have had spouses in the waiting room who would not come in to hear bad news.  Another spouse upon hearing her husband's situation replied “I can't take this”, left the office, and never returned home again.  I cannot forget these experiences.   Fortunately Kate's spouse came with her to her appointment.


As Kate's words resounded in my mind, I realized I witnessed someone who believed in love.  Watching Kate and her husband through the recent years of her cancer experience, I knew Kate expected her husband to be there in the waiting room, embrace her after she explained what was happening, and return to the examining room with her to bear the news together.            


To understand what love meant to Kate and her husband, I considered the great love manual, the Song of Songs in the Bible, penned by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.  There we find Solomon's beloved echoing Kate's lament as she sought her husband at a time of her own distress, “I found the one my heart loves.  I held him and would not let him go” (Song of Songs 3:4).   What did Solomon's wife and Kate expect when they found their husbands? 


Earlier Solomon's beloved poetically declares how her husband treated her, “I delight to sit in his shade” (Song of Songs 2:3) with the Hebrew word for “shade” meaning protection, shelter, or security.  Kate could declare “I want my husband...” because he had always taken care of her during their years together.  In the next verse Solomon's beloved states, “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4).  Solomon honored his wife and conspicuously demonstrated love.  When Kate uttered “...must hear all this”, she knew he would take action when he knew her plight.  This is what Solomon's wife and Kate expected during their crises:  the protection of love and the expression of love.             


Moments of contemplation were broken by the door swinging open.  Hand-in-hand walked Kate and her husband.  He sat with his arm around her, listening attentively to all the agonizing details.  His willingness to be with her in all she would go through was obvious to me as it was to Kate.


As Kate and her husband left the office, I did not feel the turn in her life was a tragedy.  We will all experience calamities, suffering, and death.  They are part of life. The tragedy would have been if Kate had to face the days ahead “in sickness or in health” alone.  Fortunately Kate had a lover. 

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