I wasn’t sure if I should share this here or not. But then I thought that if this story helps, or touches someone that I have never met, or even gives someone reassurance in trusting God’s plan, then I sort of had to. This was not good news to hear. I am still awaiting testing. I am hoping to be writing again soon saying that this was all a mistake, but until I know more….
As some of you may know, in February of this year I was in the hospital and told that I now suffer from Diverticulitis. And following that news, I was also told by my Gastroenterologist more recently, that I may also have a gluten allergy. And I am sure that if you have seen any of my gumblings that I am not too pleased to be having to give up things I eat almost daily, radically changing large parts of my diet and then finding out I may need to revamp all of that again. I had become so bitter about the diagnosis and so wrapped up in having to let go of foods that I enjoy that I really did not pay attention to a few small details that had been overshadowed by my feeling sorry for myself.
Along the way, the doctors in the ER and my PCP and even the Gastroenterologist eluded to the fact that although this “looks” like Diverticulitis, it may be something else. Once the possible gluten allergy was brought into my realm of possibilities I did not have another thought on the subject. I had come to the conclusion that, despite the other referrals I was given, that the source of my added problems and continued difficulty and pain despite my best efforts, must be what they were mentioning: Diverticulitis with a gluten allergy. But what I forgot to do was to listen to what they were not saying.
From the ER in February I was sent to my Primary Care Physician. He then sent me to the Gastroenterologist. The Gastroenterologist then sent me to a Hematologist. And all along this path of doctors, not once did I think about the Hematologist as anything more than “special” blood work. I never asked about it. I was not concerned. I thought that this was part of the process for detecting a gluten allergy. Therefore, the naivety of my thouught process left me in a very astonished state when I was getting down to brass tacks in the room with the Hematologist.
The visit was very routine at first. The standard weight and measurements, the temperature and blood pressure cuff, asking about allergies, and the lot. But what started me thinking that I was adrift in a land that I was unfamiliar with was when the nurse turned to me, before the doctor came in, and asked,
“Do you have a power of attorney or a living will?”
She proceeded to hand me a booklet that I can provide my dying wishes in and have said document notorized so that, should I need to service these requests, I had proper plans drawn up that will be legal.
In that moment, as I was left alone with this booklet, I leafed through thinking that it was a morbid gesture to hand someone that who is here to talk about gluten, but I still did not put too much stock into it.
After the doctor came in and gave me a quick exam he asked me if I knew why my doctors had suggested that I come see a Hematologist. I thinik my lack of questions and light banter was showing him that I might not be on the same page as he was. I told him that I had no idea. I stated that after all this I just figured that they wanted to rule out the gluten allergy to see if my Diverticulitis was causing me any more problems that might need to be treated differently. That is when he came to the side of the bed and put a hand on my shoulder and said very simply that because I have enlarged lymph nodes in my pevlic region and abdomen [as per my CT scan in February] and the symptoms I am saying that I have been having that this very easily could be Lymphoma. He explained that even though my white blood cells are showing to be perfectly fine [not abnormal] that the lymph nodes being enlarged are the bigger problem. And even as I heard these words, my mind went into a state where I was able to process the facts without emotion so that I was able to hear and understand what exactly he was saying. Although I am a very emotional person, when faced with danger or a rise to the occasion moment, I easily switch over the the “fight” part of my animal instinct and am able to be clear headed and conscise.
I left there not feeling too many things becasue I did not realize in that office what Lymphoma was and was so worried about the details of what I needed to do to be checked and tested that I forgot to even ask. Luckily, I ducked into a bathroom to look up Lymphoma. I saw this:
Lymphoma is a cancer of a part of the immune system called the lymph system. There are many types of lymphoma. One type is Hodgkin disease. The rest are called non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
I then went on to see that non-Hodgkins lymphomas begin when a white blood cell becomes abnormal. I did not have that issue. As for Hodgkin’s lymphoma…..I sure did have all of the symptoms listed. And then slowly, everythihg started to sink in. At first I was very much in denial after reading that becasue I know my body. I do feel things wring, but there was no way it could be that. And furthermore, this seemed a bit extreme. Right?
John came home that night after hearing the news from me after my appointment and just broke down. He was scared and worried. And John is usually the one telling me not to worry. I think in that moment, my denial was washed away. It was then that I realized that although this might end up as nothing, this really could be something that could stop me in my tracks. I really started to rethink my position on my life and all the things and people in it. The plan was not to think about it until my next set of tests, but that went right out the window when I actually saw that this was affecting someone other than me. It was not just my battling with feeling better, but if this was what they suspected, then I needed to clear my head and be prepared.
I know that people say just what I was thinking, ” don’t think about it. Don’t stress about something that you do not have an answer to.” And that is easy to say on the outside of this. Others might think that talking about it boasts wanting attention, or that I even want to be sick, or that I get too upset over the possibility of something. I have heard all of those things before, but none of these things are what fuels my thoughts and emotions tied to the news I just received. Yes, I do have to “wait and see”, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore the fact that there is this dark cloud looming until I DO find out. Shutting of the thoughts of the possibility of something that can very quickly humble you is not an easy feat. And to tell you the truth…..I’m scared.
I am not scared that I might have cancer. I am not scared that if I do I will face a battle with radiaiton or chemotherapy. I am not scared to find out if this is going to be my diagnosis. But what puts fear into me is the simple fact that I have no way of actually knowing if I have done all that I could with my life. And by that I mean, did I love enough? Did I hold onto my faith to the best of my ability? Did I treat others the way that I wanted to be treated? Will I be forgiven for my mistakes? Do the people I care about know how much they mean to me? Did I have the relationship with God that I truly wanted? Am I someone who left a mark on this world in a way that people will remember me and all the good things I tried to be? And when I die, will I be able to face my maker without shame?
These are my fears keeping me up at night. These are the questions I ponder in the darkest hours and quietest moments. And when these moments strike, I find myself speaking out to God more and clinging to the hymns that I grew up with because they give me comfort. I have Sara Evans version of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” qued up to be played at anytime because I need that quick reassurance of my Savior’s love or just need to sing past the tears. And through out all of this- cancer or none- I am reliving all the parts of my life and realizing that regardless of the outcome, this is changing my life.
I spoke with someone very dear to me about my worries and he told me that God is going to walk beside us through it all. And I found that sentence so well linked to the hymn I have been leaving on that I felt the burden of the initial fear lifted. He also told me that in these tough times we are more willing to listen [to God]. Which answered an unspoken question that had been weighing on me also. The final statement that really made me feel better was, some people call these the thin moments, when the veil between us and God is easier to see through. And unbeknownst to me, he had just about finished up a bought of cancer. Today was his last treatment, and I had reached out to someone who had already walked this path. God puts things on your heart for perfect reasons.
And the more I talked to him, he told me that the more he talked about his cancer, the less power it had over him. I respected that approach very much. Although I am uncertain of my outcome, it is fear that is holding all the power over me at this time. And I thought, if he can touch lives with his story, affirm his faith, witness the good from God, and find a way to turn a negative into a positive, then maybe I should follow in his footsteps.
That is what prompted me to write this. To be able to pinpoint a moment in my timeline when I had a frightening situation not isolate and conquer me, but motivate me [regardless of what the tests say] to live with a better purpose, fill my heart with more love so that I can leave it wherever I go. To live the words of the hymn that I hold up so highly. To be closer to God. To see the beauty, even moreso in every creature and thing. And to appreciate things that I have been taking for granted. I am hoping that this is a wakeup call to bring my body and mind and soul to a level that I have never known. I don’t want to be afraid, rather, I want to be a better me because fear gave me a reality check. And even for this unfortunate news, and for having to wait it out, I am thankful for the blessing this has opened me up to.
Just a closer walk with Thee,Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.
Daily walking close to Thee,Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
I am weak, but Thou art strong
Jesus, keep me from all wrong.
I’ll be satisfied as longAs I can walk, dear Lord, close to thee.
In this world of toil and snares
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who but Thee my burden shares?
None but Thee, oh Lord, none but Thee.