We’ve never actually met, but Iva Jewel Tucker is a dear friend of mine. She put in a full career at the Alabama Baptist, the weekly newspaper for our denomination in my home state, and worked alongside other friends, Editor Hudson Baggett and his secretary, our precious friend Lee Alys Orr. So we sort of feel we have a long history.
Iva Jewel is retired now and staying active. She once sent me a newspaper clipping showing her and a buddy riding their motor scooters around Birmingham. She must have told me her age, but as a gentleman, I promptly forgot it. She is, as we say, “of a certain age.”
Now she has cancer.
Here is the story, exactly as she passed it on to me. I expect you to come away thinking what my wife did when she read this: “What a delightful person. We have to meet her.” And let us note, Iva Jewel gave permission for us to write this and to use her name.
“My daughter encouraged me to have a mammogram. Yep, you guessed it. I had surgery January 5–not a mastectomy, just removal of cancer in northwest left chest (can’t use that other word in polite society, although I’ll admit I am getting braver every day). I will have six weeks of radiation, five days a week–there goes February and half of March.
“Today–Friday, January 25, 2007–was sort of a preliminary for radiation. I submitted to a CT scan, draining of large hematoma from under left arm down to scene of the crime, marking of specific areas for radiation, etc. All these invasions of privacy were accomplished as I lay on a slab with my hurting arms stretched over my head into the cavernous machine. It was beyond uncomfortable. Worse than the hurt was being unclothed from navel up, listening as various specialists commented on my anatomy. Awful, simply awful.
“I tried to think of things to take me out of that painful situation: I crossed the Irawaddy with Adoniram Judson, prayed awhile, made photos of Mount McKinley, thought about my mother, and danced on a beach on a tropic island while I ‘sang'”I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.” I prayed awhile longer, and learned that tears run into your ears when you’re lying on your back. It seemed like three hours I was in there, all the time with my aching arms stretched out over my head. Maybe it was only an hour.
“By the time I ‘sang’ down to the last verse of “Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past,” I heard a distant voice saying, ‘You may get up now.’ My arms hurt so bad I could hardly move them, but the nice nurses helped me get up and head back for the dressing room.
“A couple of other patients told me future radiation treatments will not hurt and will not last long. I hope they are right. I am feeling better tonight, thank the Lord.
“An amazing aside: It was last October when I went to Gulfport to work at the feeding station where carpenters, roofers, plumbers, et al, stay when they work as volunteers. Our crew cooks two hot meals a day plus packing lunches the workers can take with them to job sites. I didn’t do much cooking–I did important stuff like scrubbing tables and putting out salt and pepper shakers. Then one evening I sketched one of the workers. They all wanted me to draw them, so I spent most of the rest of the time drawing the workers. Glad I took my sketchbook.
“When the man at my church (Vestavia Hills Baptist) in charge of the Gulfport work heard about my cancer, he sent an e-mail saying my transportation to all treatments would be provided by the Gulfport crew! That’s wonderful! The treatments will last only 15-20 minutes, so my ‘rides’ will wait.
“Isn’t that the sweetest offer. I really appreciate this unexpected service.”
(At this point, she ended her first note with a request that I delete all the above. I replied that it was too special to delete, that I have friends who would benefit from reading it, and how would she feel about my using her name. Here is her reply, verbatim.)
“Use Iva Jewel anytime you wish. I guess more folks connect with my being a writer/editor than having cancer, but I am meeting a whole new world at the Cancer Center. I’m never surprised when some fellow asks, ‘Didn’t you used to work for them Baptists?’ They’re surprised when I reply, ‘Yep, up til last year.’
“I’m deliriously happy, especially having put 2,900 miles on my scooter. I’ll be able to ride again before long, and look forward to riding Buttercup to the last week or so of my radiation treatments. The very thought pleases me.
“When friends at church tease me about my motorcycle, I tell them I despise motorcycles–my steed is a scooter. Someone teased, ‘Got any tattoos?’ I said, ‘Yes! Across my chest: ‘DO NOT RESUSCITATE! DO NOT CALL MY SON!’ This always gets a laugh.
(I had told her about my radiation treatments; it’s what we cancer survivors do!)
“It’s hard to imagine your head being encased in that ‘mask’ and your holding still 25 minutes. That must have been awful. At least you were not naked. When I returned to the little dressing room after the medieval torture, someone cautioned about my revealing gown. ‘Be careful, the waiting room is right out there.’ I said, ‘I don’t even care. After what I’ve been through I could walk naked in front of the hospital down Clairmont!’ All the women in the dressing room laughed. It’s good to have someone know how you feel. They knew.
“I feel better today. At least I am clothed, without being on the rack while strange people circle my cage commenting on my anatomy!
“Have a good weekend with a measure of happiness along the way.”
She signs it: “Cheers, Iva Jewel, three-week cancer survivor!”
(See why I wanted you to know her? We will appreciate your remembering her in your prayers. If you wish to print this out and pass along to a friend fighting his/her own battle with cancer, I think she would be pleased.)