Moments of Awakening: Moment #2, “Melissa has Lymphoma”

Melissa and I have never communicated this portion of our journey with anyone until now.

Even as I typed this post, tears gathered in my eyes.  Reminding me of the potency of this moment; a moment draped in meaning.

Monday, March 12th 2007, the day before my 38th birthday.

I remember this day as if it were yesterday.  I was awaiting a phone call. My whole family was awaiting a phone call.  You might suspect the call was one of birthday wishes.  Not this time.  Rather, were awaiting a call from Melissa’s ENT specialist.  He had received news from UNC regarding her recent biopsy.

We waited all day for this one phone call.  I do not remember what I did during the day.  All I remember is waiting.

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . .

The phone must have rung dozens of time that day. With each ring, my heart skipped a beat. None of those calls were the call.  Finally, just before 5:00 p.m. our phone rang. This ring was different, somehow. I knew it was the call I had feared. I spied the caller ID hoping for a friend or family member. Alas, it was the ENT.

Though my mind told my hand to resist, my body won the duel.  Before I knew it, I had the receiver pressed firmly to my ear.

“Hello,” I said.

“Mr. Gainey?”


“Mr. Gainey, please hold for the Doctor.”

“Yes, I’ll hold.”

“Mr. Gainey, this is Doctor Spector. I have the results from UNC. As I suspected, the test indicates that Melissa has Follicular Lymphoma, Stage 3. I have scheduled an appointment for Friday afternoon with an Oncologist through the Florida Cancer Institute. I am sorry to bring this news, but you need to know that her cancer is beatable and her chances of survival and living a long life are quite good. She is both young and strong. I will put my nurse back on the line.”

“Thanks, Dr. Spector. Goodbye”

Somehow, during the course of the phone call, I had made my way to our laundry room. I shut the door and cried. I didn’t ‘ball like a baby’ (that was to come) because I knew I needed to speak with my dear bride.  I began to exit the laundry room as she entered the hallway. Her face told me that she knew the results before I uttered a word.

Words are crucial; they serve as our closest connection to reality. So my mouth put words to that which my eyes had already communicated: “The tests are positive, darling, you have lymphoma. We have an appointment this Friday to proceed with treatment.”

In* that moment, we cried.  We cried painfully, tenderly and wonderfully together!

The next few days are a bit murky. I remember well our Friday afternoon appointment with our oncologist, who was the first clear sign of God’s goodness and grace. More on that later!  For now I simply hope to present three moments of awakening that will help frame my current emphasis on Spiritual Formation.

moments of awakening that have lead me into this journey of Spiritual Formation:

  1. Moment #1: My journey out of porn addition into my truest, most deeply human self (you can read this brief story (in a previous post) by clicking the following link,
  2. Moment #2: The discovery of Melissa’s cancer, which exposed both great and glaring weakness and established both wonderful and grace filled strengths (the focus of this post).
  3. Moment #3: An evening at the grill: an evening to change all others. It is the catalyst behind the previous five and – with hope – the next twenty-five years of my life.


Disrupting to Restore!


*Perhaps ‘at’ is a better choice of prepositions.  It is important, however, to note how I use the meaning of ‘in’ when speaking of experiences and moments that offer life.  Though our conversation took place ‘at’ a certain time and place, Melissa and I were ‘in’ the moment.  It was as if the moment opened wide before us and swallowed us whole.