2/06/2015

Right Now

I love the rain.

I can't remember a time I didn't wake up and smile on rainy days. As one who has never really liked coffee, tea, or alcohol (though I am training myself with the latter two), a dreary day has always been soothing to me in the way I can only assume a morning cuppa or afternoon tea cozy-warmth or evening just-a-little-bit-more glass of wine is to other folk.

Only lots of rain makes gorgeous greenery like this.
How great is it that this is just a rando shot off our back deck?

Today, the rain is settling my soul. It's comfort. It is, to me, a reminder that the Lord loves me and looks out for me.

Because today, I am scared.

I need to back up a bit--as many who read this blog or are my friend (whether IRL or only on social media) know, I have been having a host of health problems. I can't lose weight (I was on a diet that worked at first but it made me incredibly sick), I ache all over, I literally cry some mornings getting out of bed, and always dread waking up because I am exhausted. There's more, but that's for another day. The point is that I have been very, very sick and we're trying to get to the bottom of why.

As I wrote about in November, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease, an autoimmune disease in which my body is attacking and destroying my thyroid. It should explain the fatigue (I have hypothyroidism, so I'm always cold, tired, etc) but even with multiple medications to give me proper amounts of the various thyroid hormones I don't feel better.

After reading about whole hosts of autoimmune diseases and the gut, plus the fact that my stomach and abdomen hurt all. of. the. time. I have already made a bunch of dietary and lifestyle changes to no avail, so I saw my naturopath to get rolling with more tests. She recommended testing for SIBO; unfortunately, my gastric bypass from 5 years ago means I cannot get conclusive results, so the gastroenterologist I saw ordered an ultrasound.

This is where I have to pause the story and put the focus onto something crucial: I don't often feel comfortable using phrasing like, "The Lord told me..." or even, "I think the Lord is telling me..." in my life. I'm certain the Holy Spirit is alive and powerful and does give people wisdom and insight; that's not the issue. Rather, it's that I recognize how frail my own heart is, how simple it is to want something and put Jesus's name on it. Personally, I'd rather live my life, be honest about my fallen nature, seek the Lord with all my heart, repent when I don't, and in general, keep the focus off of what I happen to think about how things are or should be. I'd rather the sightline go right on past me to the One who made all things as they are and can be trusted to be good through every circumstance. No need to make everything something "the Lord said."

However, Tuesday night I very clearly heard from the Lord. This has only happened a few times in my life, but when it happens I simply just know it's him.

What he said to me was that he wants me to write about my health struggles in the midst. Not when I get answers. Not when I have reached some semblance of peace about not having answers. Rather, wherever I am in the moment that I am writing, be honest right there. Let him be seen not for having delivered me unto some sought end, but for being the Deliverer who delivers me unto Himself daily.

It is no mistake that this was Tuesday night. Because that ultrasound? It was Wednesday. I figured it was just routine. Make sure nothing from my past surgery is causing problems, or, I dunno, that my intestines aren't actually turned up inside themselves after the devastation known as XLIX.

But some stuff happened during that ultrasound. I'm going to tell you what it was, and after, I will tell you why.

The things written in italics are my thoughts, scattered about.

It did start routine. Girl said she was an intern and would do the abdominal portion but that a certified tech would do the pelvic portion. No big deal, I'm sure she'll do fine.

In the beginning, she's telling me what she's doing, since I expressed that I'm super curious and would love to know what she's seeing. How fascinating to see my aorta. Wow, it's really big and long. Oh dear, that's what she said. Wow, the pancreas looks weird. Sure hope that's fine! Pancreatic cancer is baaaaad news. Glad she's moved on from that quickly. 

Understand that I was thinking that cancer thought completely in theory. I had zero worries about them finding anything.

She starts taking pictures of my liver. Lots of pictures. She explains that the liver is really big, the biggest abdominal organ. Duh. I totally know that. But I did say I was curious! 

I ask her if the big black spots on my liver are normal, not out of fear, but pure curiosity. She says, "Oh, we're not allowed to make any commentary. We just take the pictures." I feel lame for asking--I totally know that. But...if I thought something were actually wrong I wouldn't have asked. So...damn. Are black spots normal? Meh, probably. I'm sure I am fine. 

At one point she asks me to turn on my left side and takes a LOT. OF. PICTURES. of my liver and right kidney. It felt like a million because I had to hold my breath every time and she forgot to tell me to breathe again half the time. [insert many thoughts about how miserable I am and really wish I could breathe normally.] Ugh, I doubt they will even find anything so can we hurry up? I miss breathing.

More pictures. Huh, I told her where the pain tends to be and none of it was where she's spending all her time. Lots of measurements. Do they just take a bunch of little zoomed in pics to compare to a big measurement of the liver? I am obese--is she finding a fatty old liver even though I eat well so they're figuring out how big it is? I eat so damn well that I would be pissed that not even my liver can respond fairly, but meh. 

The certified tech, Nicole, comes in. My back is to them, still on my side, so I don't see any exchange made between them. So as not to bore you, a gazillion more pictures. I assume she's just making sure the pics the intern got are good enough. It occurs to me that it's weird to check over everything, retake it take so many more images, but then Nicole is talking to the intern and telling why docs like a certain view of the gallbladder that the intern hadn't taken, and takes a few with blood flow / heat sensing on that the intern hadn't taken. She also double checked some doppler test the intern did, so I really just think she's carefully checking the intern's work.

Then it gets disconcerting. Someone comes to talk to Nicole, assuming she's just observing the intern, but the intern goes out and is whispering and never comes back. When I turn back to where I can see the machine I notice two folders on the left side, both with a lot of pictures. One is labeled "liver mass" and the other is labeled "renal mass". I try to remember if those were there before. Does mass just mean size of my liver and kidneys? Or a mass that isn't supposed to be there? And with each of them? It doesn't seem like a huge deal, but bugs me.

When finishing up the upper abdominal portion, Nicole goes to type something but notices out of the corner of her eye that I am watching the screen. She casually reaches up and turns it away, where I can no longer see it...pauses, notices I am still watching her...and then turns it away even more, then types whatever it was she didn't want me to see. That really feels off, but I don't have long to think about it because she moves the finder-thingy down to to my pelvis. She first looks for my uterus and we talk about how I didn't know I needed a full bladder (no one told me I would get a pelvic exam at all) and she says it's hard to see the uterus without a full bladder, but NBD because she'll get it with the internal ultrasound.

WHAT?

Yah, I also had a transvaginal ultrasound. I have had them before, but at least I knew to expect them. So, shallow as it may be, at this point I'm thinking way more about how I wish I'd showered that day than about whatever she typed on the screen. Because we can all be honest--no one likes getting things stuck inside their nether regions at the doctor, and especially when they didn't know it would be happening. So that was fun.

Before that awful portion of the ultrasound, Nicole re-asks a few questions the intern asked and then--and I can tell she's trying to come off casual, like, "Oh, I would have asked this at the beginning had I been here"--says, "By the way, do a history of fibroids run in your family?" I didn't think much of it at the time, because she was about to do the pelvic portion and I figured she was prepping to check for PCOS, something my doctor wants to either confirm or rule out of my health issues.

That portion was awful because I have horrible lower back pain and was up on a "pillow" that was 8" high and as soft as a concrete block. I never thought I would wish for stirrups! But it took about 25 minutes (a trajillion more pictures, though she said something about ovaries being tough to capture, so I just assumed she was having a hard time getting clear shots) and by the end my poor legs were quivering, on the verge of quaking. I just imagined I was on Big Brother trying to win an endurance comp.

At some point--I can't remember exactly when--it occurred to me that maybe something was wrong. And it hit me, hard and fast, the old thought I hadn't pondered in months. Honestly, maybe it's been years.

I've always thought I would die young. If I live to see my 40th birthday I will be shocked. At least, I always felt that way. Not on purpose, not a choice to think it. It's just like how, when I was young, every time I had a stomachache I would ask where my appendix was. I just knew that I would have it removed as a kid. And I did, when I was 16; it ruptured and I almost died because no one believed me that it was my appendix; the "boy who cried wolf" guilt ended real quick when my parents were told that one more hour of waiting to go to the ER and I likely wouldn't have made it.

Then I remembered how, when I was in college, we had to write our eulogy for a leadership class. I wrote about being 34(ish) and getting a brain tumor. I died fast with a beloved husband and a couple young kids. What people remembered me for was loving Jesus with my whole heart and only caring that people saw him. Friends knew I loved them.

That was all I really cared about leaving as a legacy. I didn't need people to think I did great things, or was a world changer. I have always felt the world is most changed when we allow love and grace to change us, and then let that flow through us as we engage with those around us.

I still really only care about that...but suddenly, it hit me that I am now in my mid-30s, just 8 months shy of that eulogy age of 34, and I have a husband and young kids. It was tragic in theory as a single 20-year-old college student, but just the possibility of being really, really sick now is a devastating thought.

Adding to the sense of foreboding was that Nicole said she needed to go ask the radiologist if she needed any more pictures, and would be right back. I've had babies, have had my share of ultrasounds that end with that comment, so I know that it usually takes a couple minutes, maybe 5. But she was gone for over 20 minutes. She didn't end up needing more but it just added to the "what hell is going on?" feeling I was having.

I told myself I was being ridiculous, and shrugged it off. What could I do in that moment, anyway? Mass probably meant organ size, and the tech probably really was just checking the intern's work since I am an actual patient, not theoretical practice. And at that point I had been poked and prodded for two hours and I just wanted to go home.

So. Fast-forward to now. Why am I writing all this?

No, I have no answers. Just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Why did I sense so deeply that the Lord wanted me to write about my health issues in the midst of them?

I don't really want to tell you the thoughts that have run through my head. Wondering if this is really bad. Is it cancer? Where did it start? What stage? Will I have to get chemo, with a port put in? If all my hair falls out, will it grow in with even worse frizzy texture than the destruction to my once silky hair wrought by my lovely thyroid? Wondering if it was the Lord that spurred me, about a month ago, to record myself singing my bedtime songs to Roger and Juliet so that they would have them in case anything ever happened to me. Haunted by the idea that maybe I am going to die in my 30s, that maybe my babies, whom I love so dearly, might not even remember me.

Sweet Jesus, let that one not be.

But the health issues are now terrifying. I'm feeling every single ache and pain in my body that I have just learned to live with, but now it's, "Wait, my knee started hurting out of nowhere three weeks ago and isn't getting better. Is it a tumor? My lymph nodes have been swollen and bothering me for 6 weeks. Do I have stage 4 cancer metastasized throughout my body? When I thought I might be getting kidney stones on Monday, and couldn't get out of bed, and now is back even worse today, is that pain cancer? Is the constant pain tenderness all throughout my abdomen because cancer is eating me alive from the inside out? And if I die, can Jason afford to pay someone to be a full-time mama like I am? And will Jason remarry someone who will love him and the kids like I do? To never let my babies feel broken by autism, to make sure they never get to question how loved they are, how immensely great and powerful the grace and love of God is for them? Will she tell them that?"

I'm not really afraid to vocalize those thoughts once I have the answer.  Sharing fear, when it's in retrospective theory vs. the now reality, is easy for me. If it ends up being cancer, then, well, those are the things I'm really thinking right now that aren't so bad to talk about once cancer is real.

And if it's not cancer, then, hey, at least I get some perspective. I might be tired all the time, but I'm here. My kids might not have an active, energetic mama with whom they remember lots of going and doing stuff as kids, but at least they have memories of me.

Right now, though, I don't know anything. I can only conjecture that they even found anything. And then, maybe it is just rando fibroids and cysts.

In the meantime I am just waiting for a phone call. And even that phone call, in the worst case scenario, would say that we need more tests.

Or it's nothing and all this was nothing.

As I am writing this, I just looked at my phone, realized it's been three hours since I confirmed that The Report has been sent to the doctor's office, since the medical assistant said they'll call me once they get it, and thought I should call again. And I thought, "Maybe I'll call and she'll say, 'Nope! Nothing abnormal! That tech just has a really different way of labeling pictures!' and this will all be for naught. I shouldn't even post this blog. I should wait. Get some answers." Otherwise known as the exact opposite of what God told me to do.

Weak and frail, much?

You see, this is life, friends. Right now, today. Yes, eventually I will know if this was nothing or a minor something or really big, scary, possibly death something. But today, in this human flesh, I don't know the answers. And I'm scared. Scared that the answer could be really bad news.

Lord have mercy on my soul, because truth time:

If it's cancer, ok. I will FIGHT. And the Lord will remain faithful and I know I can trust him.

You know what scares me more than cancer?


Telling you how scared I am that it might be cancer and then having it be nothing. 


That, to me, is terrifying. That I will look like such a fool, worrying over nothing. She who says Jesus is the almighty and trustworthy light of the world was scared and didn't rest and trust in the Lord.

But that's why I need to tell you. I DO NOT HAVE THAT FAITH.  And, I suspect, neither do you. How impressive is the rock solid faith in a person who just actually is kept in perfect peace because they steadfastly trust in the Lord to those who can't do that?

Who really does that, actually? Has the possibility of cancer staring them in the face and actually feels fine-just-fine? I'm not talking about someone who says they are fine, who acts like they are fine. I'm asking who, in the core of their soul, could be in a position like I am, a young mom with toddler-aged special needs children, and just thinks, "No big deal. God is good."

As I said in this post, I don't think I am supposed to be fine right now. I'm supposed to feel the fear of death, to see the fragile estate that is this life, and, most importantly, acknowledge the soul-crushing weight of the idea that my loved ones would lose me.

So this is me, talking to you in the midst.

And you know what? God has been faithful. Last night, whilst talking about all this stuff, I texted this to a friend:



Then, shortly after, I was doing some of my catch-up on the devotional I have been reading. Now, I am not telling you God caused me to not spend time reading it for almost a month, but I will say that the timing of reading this was uncanny, the Lord just doin' how he do:

Tullian, please forgive the posting of an entire day!

Do you see that highlighted part? Just come on now.

The entire entry was grace to my soul. Right now, this side of eternity, I am going to be scared. I will have fear. I won't say or feel or think or do the "right" godly things.

But you know what? I don't have to. Jesus already did, and his perfect record isn't just the thing that gets me into the other side of eternity--it's my hope today. Right now I get to live through all of this brokenness and sin and death and suffering, from within and without, and know that my God looks on me not with annoyance for my lack of faith but with compassion.

There's a song that is all of a sudden burrowed in my soul, called The Sun Is Rising by Britt Nicole. You can listen to it here.


You're gonna make it 
The night can only last for so long 

Whatever you're facing
 
If your heart is breaking


One thing that bugs me is she says this line:

But there's a promise for the ones who just hold on

I beg to differ. I let go of God and his promises a thousand times a day.

He never lets go of me.

Today, he reminded me of that with gorgeous grey skies and dripping rain.

That's all I need for this moment, exactly where I am right now.

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