Tag Archive: Wendy Van Eyck


I don’t know about you but growing up I believed that old people and other people got cancer.

My gran passed away from cancer when I was in my early teens. So I knew cancer existed. I just didn’t think that cancer would be part of the story of someone young, or of someone I love.

I guess that’s the first thing I’ve learnt about cancer. It doesn’t discriminate. It will attack rich or poor, young or old, dark or light, male or female.

To be honest I never wanted to learn anything about cancer. But it’s hard not learn when eight months into marriage your husband is diagnosed with lymphoma. All of sudden instead of “love”, “dinner” and “honeymoon phase” our vocabulary was replaced with “chemo”, “oncologist” and “white blood counts”.

We were in our late twenties and fresh off a plane from a seven-week backpacking holiday across South East Asia when we heard “cancer” used for the first time to explain a series of everyday illnesses my husband had.

At first we thought, like the naive, young newlyweds we were, ‘It’s 12 chemos. There is a 75% “cure” rate. It’ll just be a hiccup’. Yes, the oncologists went there, they gave a cure rate not a remission rate. How hard can this be we thought? Six months and then we’ll have our lives back.

Six months of my husband throwing up at the sight of the nurses who administered the chemo. Six months of me having to coerce him into “just one more session”. Six months of waking up in the middle of the night to make sure he was still breathing and sleeping with thermometer in the bedside table to check his temperature never rose above 38 degrees Celsius.

Six months passed and it was over. But it wasn’t. Because the second thing I’ve learnt about cancer is that it never completely goes away.

Even once you think you’ve beaten it, it hangs in there like a child clinging to its mother’s leg, asking for attention every 6 months to one year when the calendar reminds you it’s time for that scan.

The results of the first round of chemo came the same day as my grandfather’s funeral. The chemotherapy hadn’t worked. Xylon still had cancer. So we re-adjusted our schedules to more intensive chemo, four days a week in hospital this time, and a month long in-hospital bone marrow transplant procedure.

While Xylon lay in hospital for a month I learnt that cancer comes only to steal and destroy but Jesus came to give life, life and more life. I learnt that prayer is more than a nice idea, that sometimes it means praying the unthinkable and other times it means using worship as an act of war against the enemy of our souls. I discovered that even on my worst days I am never really alone and that even in the darkness God will find me. And I learnt that Jesus is still reckless with hope.

Cancer sucks. I hate it. There is not getting round that. I wish almost daily that cancer isn’t part of our story. We’re almost one year on from his first clear scan and I still get angry about all that cancer stole from us.

Yes, it’s taught us some things I hope we never forget like how not to take time with loved ones for granted. Or how to grab hold of the life you dream of and not wait for “someday”. It has reminded us to hold possessions lightly.

And it has helped put most of our petty problems in the right perspective.

And it’s taught me that God cares about us. I don’t know why he allows cancer. And I get pretty angry about death (and then I have to remind myself that God hates death too). But somehow while I’ve held my husband’s hand through chemo and fevers and blood transfusions I’ve felt that God is holding me.

Don’t get me wrong; there have been days when I’ve wondered if God exists. God hasn’t appeared to me in a vision or whispered in my ear. But I’ve felt held, buoyed up by a hope that is not my own. I can’t really explain it but it’s been real to me.

I guess this is maybe the most important thing I’ve learnt in the almost four years since Xylon’s cancer diagnosis: when the rest of the world is saying there’s no hope, Jesus is standing there saying, “They’re wrong.”

When everyone else is questioning if Jesus really cares about the hard things we’re going through, I listen for his voice declaring, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

Sometimes that’s all I have. And the longer I walk this road with Xylon’s hand in mine and Jesus by side the more I’m learning that is enough.

[Wendy van Eyck writes at ilovedevotionals.com for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, or believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a passport and a backpack. The various links within this post are back to articles she has written on those specific aspects of her journey]

[For other stories relating to different aspects of Cancer journeys, click here]


[Disclaimer: while in Americaland, the term “coloured” is a strongly negative term, in South Africa there is a unique group of people who have come from a heritage of different cultures but now have developed their own distinct culture. They are neither black nor white, nor are they mixed race, and they would call themselves ‘coloured’.]

Marriage and Melanin

“You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.

We will make it through this.”

The words were written in irregular handwriting outside the lines that sought to contain them. They were written in red, scrawled like the love in his heart, across a page torn haphazardly from a notebook. They were courting words, wooing words – words meant for me, words meant for a heart that cracked a bit more every time it beat, and pounded anytime he was near. They were words written for a heart coming face-to-face with the way people often view inter-racial relationships.

We met in December 2007, when the South African sun was being chased away by a thunderstorm. We met at my work. I was a TV producer and he was a guest on the show. Xylon was early. He was also funny, entertaining and easy to talk to.

A few months later Xylon took me for lunch but neither of us ate. We talked about friends and the cold drinks and the way our bosses spoke. Then he took a deep breath, and said I shouldn’t laugh, because he’d never done this before. Then he told me that he liked me, and asked if I liked him, and I said I did.

I’d love to say that we then went on to live happily ever after but we didn’t. I took Xylon home to meet my parents and they told me they didn’t approve. They didn’t like him because he is coloured and I am white.

It’s been 8 years since I found the note saying we would make it. We’ve been married for four of those. It wasn’t an easy path to marriage for us. Both of us had to step back and give my parents the time and space to accept our relationship (you can read that part of the story on my blog here). In that time, we learnt to talk about real issues rather than just surface issues, we learnt how keeping our hearts from each other can destroy a relationship, regardless of the tones of melanin involved.

When I first started dating I cared about the race thing a lot. I worried about how people would look at me differently if they saw me dating someone of different colour. I’ve found that the more time passes the less I think about it. The more Xylon is just a person to me, the less the colour of his skin suit matters to me.

From time-to-time we talk about adopting across colour lines and I am always surprised, considering my parents were the ones that opposed us, how resistant his family are to us bringing home a black baby. I’m reminded of my parents and of the grace they needed to see that love is not a colour and character isn’t a shade of skin.

I’m not colour blind. I notice the skin colour of others. I love the way when I hold my husband’s hand pale ivory skin sits harsh against his dark caramel skin. I pity any photographer who tries to light balance a photo with us in it.

I don’t love the way other people sometimes stare, point or comment. But I try to remember that I sometimes stare at inter-racial couples out of curiosity, and unless I’m with Xylon they would probably think I’m judging them. As my husband would say, “everyone has a story”, and until we hear it we won’t know his or her heart.

[For some other stories of Mixed Race and Culture Connections, click here]

[Wendy van Eyck writes at ilovedevotionals.com for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, or believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a passport and a backpack.]

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