Footprints in the Sand

In a moment, her whole world changed. Improvement and progress were words she would never hear again.

“It was an incredibly overwhelming, heavy, and dark time,“ said Veronica Kyle, member of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois.

In 2023, Veronica’s husband, the Rev. William Kyle, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive and most common type of cancer that originates in the left frontal lobe of the brain. For William, the location of the glioblastoma is inoperable and there is no cure.

rev william kyle

Within a few short weeks prior to the diagnosis, Veronica began noticing that William was experiencing forgetfulness, confusion, and problems with speech such as stuttering, which has now developed into progressive aphasia.

“I assumed that William’s symptoms were related to an earlier hypertension crisis that started in 2016,” said Veronica. “Don’t attribute the warning signs like forgetfulness to old age or stress,” encouraged Veronica, get an MRI.”

Not long after the 2023 diagnosis, reality set in. Veronica became an instant caregiver, estate planner, healthcare advocate, researcher of clinical trials, and financial steward of all family affairs. And, while Veronica was managing her present in multiple roles to care for William, she was quickly thrusted into planning and preparing for the future. William’s prognosis was 12-18 months with chemotherapy and radiation treatment—the average lifespan for his condition.

Veronica can spend three to five days a week in the hospital with William as he goes through radiation and chemotherapy treatments, oncology appointments, and weekly lab work. Additional appointments have included three-days-a-week trips to the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, a rehabilitation facility in Chicago for physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Currently, both Veronica and William have learned how to enhance William’s ability to communicate using a Tobii Dynavox, a speech generating device. She also sought second opinions from various places regarding William’s illness, including MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, and she researched with hope in her heart, suitable clinical trials, none of which he was eligible for.

Taking several Uber trips and other forms of transportation to and from the hospital, which is a considerable distance from her home, Veronica can spend up to $250 a week on local transportation alone. In addition, periodic flights to facilities such as the Cleveland clinic, costs for food, lodging, and other daily lifestyle expenses that are outside of medically-related costs, began to expand her expense budget. At the encouragement of Willams’ men’s prayer group of more than 40 years, a GoFundMe page was established by their daughter to help cover the expenses and other incurred debt related to William’s health.

revs william veronica kyle

Emergency Support for Unexpected Life Events

“I started getting phone calls from various UCC ministers and Disciple of Christ ministers, who had connections to the Pension Boards as well as local conferences. They said to me, ‘Veronica, this has got to be taxing for you.’ Technically, they were correct as we've been on this journey since the William’s first diagnosis of the hypertension crisis in 2016.”

Veronica eventually sought support from the Pension Boards to alleviate some of the economic burden. She applied for an Emergency Grant that covered a portion of her medical travel expenses, which included clinical trials and second opinions, as she was getting her future affairs in order.

“During this time, I've had to say to God, ‘I don't know why this is happening, but I thank you that you have been like footprints in the sand.’ I know that God is carrying me through this because some days I don't even know how I'm getting through it. It is so much. It can only be God, in addition to the support we received from our village of friends, family, neighbors, and the kindness of strangers.”

Looking back, Veronica in her humanity stated, “I wanted my life back.” She shared, “William and I were active mission partners. We met in college a few months shy of our 20th birthdays, some 50 years ago. We served with Global Ministries, representing the UCC Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples of Christ for 12 years in Jamaica and Southern Africa. Prior to the last devastating diagnosis, we were co-chairs of the green ministry at Covenant UCC, getting people involved with environmental stewardship efforts in the church.”

Veronica also recalled her more than 13 years of service with Faith in Place in Chicago, an organization that works with the faith community in addressing environmental justice, stewardship, climate change, and climate equity issues. William served as the Eco Youth Ambassador Coordinator of that organization and began to engage teens and young adults on the journey of environmental stewardship. He also served the LGBTQ+ youth and young adults homeless community through Night Ministry, a Chicago-based program.

Who Heals the Healer?

As she reflected, Veronica questioned, “Who heals the healer?”

“We were always doing ministry, always serving, and we were partners in all of this work. He is my greatest support. I always say about people like William and myself, who supports the healer? Very often, if we're not careful, we don't know how to go about asking for help to get the support we need, and that is especially true for ministers. Ask for help!”

It is no doubt that what Veronica and her husband are currently enduring cannot be solved with an emergency grant alone, but it is part of the support that comes by way of the Pension Boards, Williams’ insurance coverage for Optune, a portable, noninvasive device, which has been shown to slow cancer progression, along with other medical coverage support. Currently, their out-of-pocket medical expenses amount to approximately $700 a month.

The support also comes by way of the ongoing faithful and generous gifts to the Christmas Fund all year round. It is through these gifts that emergency assistance, great or small, can bring light and hope to families like Veronica and William in their seasons of challenge.

You can be footprints in the sand for Veronica and William in your prayers as their journey continues, and you can remember their story when you consider your next gift to the Christmas Fund for Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund.

Gifts to the Christmas Fund provide retired and active pastors, lay church workers, and their families with direct financial assistance to supplement pensions, help with the cost of medical insurance, provide a thank-you gift at Christmas, and meet emergency needs.