Upon awaking this morning I whispered aloud, as I have the past few days,
"I'm going to live today. Thank you, Father."
While I'm sure there have been other times in my life I've thought or spoken similar affirmations at the beginning of a day, these recent declarations come from a deeper place, a place of hope and despair; of gratefulness and anger; of courage and fear.
As you may have read in my past post, I've been experiencing some challenging health issues. My body has responded well to insulin treatment, an extreme diet makeover, and therapy for the rheumatoid arthritis. I was even getting to the point where I considered them unwanted nuisances and was determined to live my best life in spite of the set backs.
In the past week, however, I have received news of a much more serious nature and been left with questions that leave me wondering about my future, both tomorrow and beyond. While visiting our dear ones in Indiana (and you'll soon read another post about the incredible amazingness of our 14-month-old grandson, Noah, who embodies laughter and kindness and joy in his perfect little humanness), I experienced a critical shortness of breath that seemed to develop out of nowhere. Just the week before our trip, I'd bicycled almost 10 miles with no notice of breathing difficulty. After two days of wondering why I was so winded, we drove the 20 minutes to Indiana University North ER and from the moment we stepped through the door felt their care, from the registrar to the many doctors and nurses we encountered.
There is no need to go into the nitty-gritty medical details; suffice to know that in moments I was receiving attention, testing, and more. After a CT scan of my chest the reason for my breathing difficulty was attributed to two blood clots, one in each of my lungs (pulmonary embolisms) having made the trip up from my legs. While this scan concentrated on my upper chest, it inadvertently (?) saw a "shadow" on my liver. Not wanting to wait, they ordered another scan of my abdomen which revealed a small growth on my pancreas and several small lesions on my liver.
My first reaction was utter fear followed by many tears. While a diagnosis could not be made without a biopsy, the gentle doctor shared that there were indications of pancreatic cancer. In the meantime, a dear doctor in St. Augustine who'd heard of my situation from his wife (who is in a band of fierce warriors who call ourselves The Social Justice Lady Squad - you women ROCK), personally called the doctor in Indiana, they consulted on the best plan for my return home, and next steps.
The blood thinner I was placed on had an immediate and positive effect on my breathing so it was decided that it best I return to Florida ASAP for further testing. Nathan and Devan drove, making sure we stopped each and every hour so I could get out and walk. Downtown Atlanta was practically a ghost-town so we flew through (that has never ever happened) so we sensed our way being cleared by big angels with flaming swords.
In the meantime other wheels were turning. A dear friend whose cancer was successfully treated at Moffitt Center in Tampa contacted her health liaison and Moffitt called me Monday afternoon. The best option was for me to get as much diagnostic testing here so when I went to my April 5 appointment all information would be in hand. The fact that I'm even getting an appointment so soon is a miracle as is the fact that I had my biopsy yesterday, exactly one week after receiving the news in Indiana. There are so many people who have stepped in to open doors (and I realize that this is privilege in its highest form) that all I can do is stand with open hands and be grateful.
So those are the facts . . . and here are my feelings . . . .
I am scared, really scared. I'm not quite ready to let go of this world. As my mind often does, I first go straight to the worse case scenario and if not careful, sink into that dark place of tragedy and death; those who know me well can attest to this. But something different has happened during this most recent crisis and as I soon as I find myself falling into that abyss, I whisper, "I am alive now" and scoot out of there as fast as my mental legs can carry me. Philippians 4 has been more real to me in the past week than ever before, and believe me I've had plenty of times when peace was illusive. This excerpt from The Message was translated by Eugene Peterson, a giant of a man whom we were privileged to meet in 2004 when we were having to decide whether to go through with Nathan's risky brain surgery. His wise counsel and his translation of these verses helped guide our decision.
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them . . . don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. . . Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies.
I have absolutely no idea what the future holds but I know this journey will be hard and painful and scary. I also know that the grand sum of our lives is simply the compilation of moments and days, each adding up until we all say, "How did that time fly by so quickly?" So one thing I plan on doing is using each moment as an opportunity for joy. Since we've been back I've found myself enjoying the sun and walks on our beach, playing with our new pup Camden who is a healing friend, sitting in my winter-ugly garden and envisioning how it will look in just a few weeks, talking to Devan honestly and deeply, enjoying just being in the same room with him. Nathan (who has had some great job interviews this week and more next week, one which will lead to him moving out soon) has been attentive and caring, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, going on walks with me and laughing with me over how much we enjoy March Madness. I can honestly say that in the past 9 days I've experienced more joy than sorrow.
I'm also grateful that on most days I feel almost amazing - truly. I have virtually no pain, I continue to experience a good reaction to insulin, my breathing is back to normal, the liver biopsy was painless with no follow-up pain, and I'm sleeping so well. It's odd to think there is something sinister growing inside my body when my body feels generally good. Grace.
There are people all over the world praying for me, loving me, caring for me. And now you can as well. Pray that Moffitt would find my condition treatable and that together we could quickly come up with a treatment protocol. Pray that I would be brave and that I wouldn't waste even one second wallowing. And mostly pray that with open arms I would gratefully embrace this journey.
With much love and grace,
My dear friend Pam kept these these rocks close during her
cancer treatment & has now passed them on to me so I, too,
can have encouraging reminders.
P.S. - feel free to reach out but also understand that I may not always respond quickly. I've created some healthy boundaries for myself so I can concentrate on healing and realize that I don't need to burden myself with always being available. I hope to write often here so you can follow my progress.