During the bouts of cancer diagnosis and treatments, Rachel writes e-mails to keep her friends and family updated on her thoughts and spiritual walk.

Dying is hard

April 20, 2009

Dying is hard.


I’m not sure what I thought it would be like but I think I hoped it would be easier than this. But, admittedly, I’m not that tough.


First of all, I’ve never done it before and there’s no one around who’s done it before to ask how to do it well. You have to prioritize and plan your days, weeks, months, without knowing how much time you actually have. You have to find the balance between complaining so that you can get relief and not complaining so that you don’t annoy all the nice people who are trying to help you. All this, I am learning, I am not that good at.


I went to bed the other night feeling ok but woke up an hour later with searing pain in my head. If it didn’t sound so odd, I’d say that I can feel the cancer growing. My face went more numb and I had crazy pain in my jaw and head. The cancer has spread to my shoulders too so those ache often as well. I took some pain medication and it’s subsided somewhat but was then wide awake and couldn’t stop thinking about how this is all going to go down. Will it be fast? Slow? More painful than it is now? I ask but there are, of course, no answers.


The last couple of weeks have been a bit more rough. More bad days. Fewer good days. I’ve had some more radiation on my other hip and my sternum where the cancer has spread and was causing discomfort. I usually get a little “bounce” a few days after the radiation when the nausea and fatigue from the treatment have worn off. Today was one of those days – kind of. I got to to go out for lunch with a friend. I got to take the kids to their art class. I got to get the groceries for supper. And then I came home and spent the rest of the day in bed…and my head started hurting. It’s like that. Ups and downs. And it can vary by the hour. Which I’m sure, if it is frustrating for me, must be maddening to those around me who have to deal with me. One moment I am insisting that I am perfectly fine to do something and the next am asking for help to get a sip of water.


Dying is hard. And now I better understand some of the things people struggle with as they near death.


I remember my grandmother who, at the end of her life could not move, see or hear very well and wondered what Jesus was waiting for – why wouldn’t he take her home now? I understand how she felt. I remember my grandfather, who died just last year, as he patiently endured our entreaties to eat, our constant asking of “How are you feeling?” or our efforts to make him more comfortable. I understand how he felt. And then there are the moments where the kids ask, “Mom, how come you got cancer?” Those questions, of course, are the hardest.


Although I do very little these days, the one thing I do is pray more. I’ve never been a great person of prayer, to my shame. But when I’m lying awake at night or trying not to throw up or just alone in bed – I pray. I pray because it is the only useful thing I can do. And, that said, it is a very good investment of the time I do have. I pray for Neil. A lot. How grateful I am for him and for strength to endure what is being asked of him. I pray for Quinn and Kate – while I still can. And I pray for the many people that God brings to my mind in the midst of my darkness.


So all that to say, I’m not very good at this. I am trying though. And when I think of the end, of how hard dying already is, and of how hard it will be for those I love when I’m gone, these are the verses that come to mind:


“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

Isaiah 43:1-2


Dying is hard. But not as hard as it could be.


with love,


  1. You are on my heart so often and I wonder how you are doing. Thankyou for having the courage to speak so that the gospel through your testimony could be shared. You made it real and believable and I pray that many souls are being saved as your testimony is shared. God be with you and your family especially with your husband as he goes through this with his beloved and faces everyday the inevitability of going on with life without you.
    Sue Beckner

  2. Hi Rachael, you don’ t know me.. I am Dan MacDonald’s sister, and friends with Janice Stott. She and Eric (her husband) are in our home group, we have prayed for you, and given thanks for you. I don’t have words to describe how much you have touched me. You are incredible. I know that you would rightly give all the praise to Jesus, but I do thank you, who has been obedient. You are teaching us all how to live in His grace and His hope, only. Thank you. Barb.

  3. I just finished listening to your beautifully impacting talk. Interestingly, you wrote this post on the 1-year anniversary of my dad’s Home-going.

    April 20th is day filled with so many mixed emotions for me. It is difficult to not dwell on the sight of my father’s incredible nausea and increasingly frail, malnourished body (shell – amen!) as his colon cancer enveloped his liver.

    My dad’s cancer journey was short – less than two months following his diagnosis, although his body had been hiding the cancer for two years or more.

    I still have dreams about him about once a week, and in all of them I am his sole caregiver, yet throughout each scene of the dream I feel helpless in that there is only so much I can do.

    I wake up shaken and broken, and then I remember that the suffering is what passed away, not my father. So how can I continue to grieve for sorrows that do not exist any longer? Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on things that are true. Is my dad still dealing with that horrible disease? – no! It is NOT true.

    Your talk helped me realize the honor it was for my dad to suffer, and to see the bigger, redemptive picture. Oh how we all would claw for Heaven if we knew what it is like to be rid of this sin-affected world.

    Thank you for a much needed eternal perspective. It is so easy to focus on the here and now when, in an instant, we will have a billion+++++ lifetimes in a perfect world with our Savior.

    I’m gonna wrap my arms around my daddy’s neck
    And tell him that I’ve missed him

    …When I finally make it Home

  4. Rest in Christ my sister….I will meet you one day! Where there is no pain, no sorrow, no more tears….all wiped away from Jesus our Savior!! I am so thankful for the life you lived here, the impact you had on my life will be forever engraved on my heart….I don’t think I will ever be the same after meeting you via the internet…I am so thankful I was able to. My prayers go out for your family & friends now, who will for sure miss you the deepest. May the God of ALL Comfort be ever close to their hearts at this time of temporary loss.

  5. How amazing that I am sitting here in Oklahoma on August 23, 2009 and Rachel’s message is still touching lives for God even after she is no longer on this earth. THAT IS AWESOME! That is having a purpose. Wow, that I could trust God & his ultimate goodness & wisdom like Rachel did. I am convicted that I have a purpose & it is to live for him- To serve with JOY! Thank you Jesus for this woman’s precious life & legacy. I pray many come to Christ & her death brings many people to you. I pray for Neil, Kate & Quinn that you are filled with a supernatural joy & peace. You were blessed to have lived with this wonderful lady. She was undeniably so in love with the three of you. Her strength on her video is so evident of her love for you.

  6. I can’t believe I’m actually hearing about this just now. I’ve been trying to get my life straight with God. I’m sorry for everything you have been through RIP Rachel

  7. Thank you for your message of truth and faith, Rachel. Even though you are no longer reading the notes here, I write because our Lord is infinite. With Him there is no time, and you are with Him. I have Multiple Myeloma, and wept while reading your letters. Living, dying; dying, living. You’re right. It’s hard to plan ahead, but it’s hard not to plan ahead. It’s hard. Thank you for telling how it was for you. I pray for your family. Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace.

  8. To the family of Rachel, my heart is broken for you, and I share your tears, your right Rachel will be greatly missed, her love for her God and family is truly divine, if I may. Such a amazing woman who cares more for others than herself. I look so forward to meeting her in heaven, just know loved ones, you will see her again, and God will comfort you during these trying times. Your in my prayers my precious ones. In Jesus Christ, your brother Tony C

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