The past few years we’ve selected a “word” that best communicates what we want to focus on that year, how we want to grow, how we want to spend our time, etc. I’m sure most of you are familiar with such practices and maybe you do the same yourself. Past words have been “establish”, “connect”, “weakness”, “satisfied”…and with those words we came up with goals and hopes and plans of what to do or not do. This year, there was no word that seemed appropriate. In fact, I’d be ok if February was our month to officially start this year.
I’ve heard it from many people: January was a long month. So much illness going around. The weather was the worst. It just felt long and tiresome. We are right there in with all those feels.
(I’ve said this many times, but I write on this blog as a means of release as well as a way to document our lives…whether it gets read or not I may never know and that’s ok. But I want to get what’s on my heart out there and let the Lord do with it as He wants. If He only uses it to allow me to process through things, let it be. If He uses my words and experiences in the heart of someone else, then I want to be used to point any reader to Him.)
Ever since July of 2017 I’ve dealt with some excruciating pain in my lower left abdomen. A twisting pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt. No change in position made it go away. It would come on unexpectedly. After I could take it no longer, I would pop a few Ibuprofen and about 20 minutes later, the pain would mostly subside. As summer turned to fall, the episodes increased in frequency as well as intensity. The first week of November I was making dinner one evening when an episode appeared. I laid on the floor hoping I wouldn’t pass out. After that, I finally gave in and decided to make an appointment with my doctor. My ultrasound the week of Thanksgiving revealed a 7.8 cm cyst on my left ovary. My MRI a few days later showed the same…only it had grown about 0.3 cm in only those few days. And then…I waited 2 1/2 weeks to see an OB/Gyn. When I finally saw her she decided to do some lab work and then recheck the ultrasound in 3 weeks…6 weeks after the initial one. If it was down in size, we would discuss options. If not or if it had grown the most likely course of action would be surgery.
January 2nd…two days into the New Year but Nathan and I were not having all the normal New Year feels that we usually have. This New Years felt heavier. Going into that ultrasound and appointment we didn’t know what to expect. Back when I was pregnant with E&J we went into every appointment thinking “everything is going to be so much better now and all the problems will be gone!” Going through that has given us a different perspective. Sometimes the outcome isn’t favorable. Sometimes the outcome is “we just have to wait and see”. Sometimes the outcome is an interruption to normal life. We walk a thin line of being positive yet realistic. Putting it all in the Lords hands and realizing that sometimes His gifts come in confusing packages…on this side of heaven anyways.
The ultrasound showed a 9.5 cm cyst…the fluid was murky and contained granules. My doctor was a little concerned now. She said while I possess basically zero risk factors for ovarian cancer, she didn’t want to completely rule out that possibility. Regardless if it was malignant or not, the fact was it needed to be removed. She offered to send me straight to an oncologist if that made me feel better. Nathan and I decided the best decision was to just get the cyst out and go from there. Surgery was scheduled for January 24th and we were on our way.
There’s a lot I could say about how I felt at this point… but the most prominent feelings were anger and not wanting to even think about it. I didn’t want to go through with it. I didn’t want anything to be wrong. I definitely spent a good five days in kind of a pouty mood towards it all.
And then a sermon the following Sunday really helped me to process what exactly was going on in my heart. The visiting pastor talked a lot about unexpected changes, and God’s sovereignty and grace and love in the midst of the unknown. Then towards the end he made a statement that seems so simple, but so easily forgotten: the path may change, but God does not. I cracked. I couldn’t take communion because I just felt so angry. I was crying and telling God how angry I was. I definitely wanted a better attitude but I knew it wasn’t going to come from myself. After we got home I was able to process a little more and what it came down to was this…I was angry because I felt like after all we had been through only 3 years prior, we should now have a “free pass” to no more trouble…especially health wise. Hadn’t our family and my body been through enough already? I know in my head the words “easy” and “trouble free” do not describe the Christian life…but my heart was having trouble wanting what God had given to me. But in the midst of my anger I did feel peace. And love. I didn’t feel ashamed to admit my true feelings to God…in fact, I felt better. Almost like I looked myself in the mirror, admitted to myself why I was pouting and it helped.
Waiting is never a fun thing…especially when you are waiting on results. Or when you get some results but not all…like with this. One of my tumor markers was slightly elevated. Hearing the words “cancer” and “oncologist” thrown around. I’m 32 years old, married to my high school sweetheart going on 13 years. I’m a mother of 4 young children…but no matter who you are or what situation you’re in no one likes to hear those words. I admit, I felt concerned…even if it was unwarranted. And those words somehow find their way into your heart. Your thoughts at random moments of the day can be influenced by those words. Wiping up the many spills you hear “be glad you are able to do this.” Reading stories, changing diapers, breaking up squabbles I could feel a weight: “don’t let this moment pass without looking them in their eyes and reminding them that you love them.” Or taking just a second to hold them tight or grab my husbands hand for no reason. Time is precious…and for a few weeks I truly looked at my family differently.
I can honestly say God was near to me, to us during the waiting. Our small group supported us. Elders from our church prayed for us. Our Church family acted exactly as Jesus instructed. They were His hands, feet, mouth…they cared for us. I’m not sure we’ve experienced that before and it’s not only humbling, but it’s encouraging.
I’ve been reading in 1 Samuel for a few weeks now and about a week before my surgery I read the passage where God calls Samuel…it’s a fairly famous story. But one part that I’d never paid attention to is when Samuel actually listens to what God says to him. Basically God’s first message for Samuel…a boy at the time was this: “your mentor Eli, his sons are morons. I’m going to kill them. And you need to tell Eli everything I’ve told you.” I had to read it a few times. Like really God? He’s a boy. And your first thing you ever say to him is this??? Not ” I love you and have a great plan for your life!”??? But as I kept reading and thinking about what I do know about Samuel…and what I know about God and how He really knows what He’s doing, it really makes sense. Samuels job is never an easy one. He drops some hard truth bombs. He doesn’t win popularity contests. This is the path God put him on. God began his ministry exactly the way He intended…with hard truth. It would have been kind of unfair if God had started out like “oh hey Samuel. You’re rocking it here with Eli. Just wanted you to know how much I love ya!” (Cue warm fuzzies) and then later was like “dude, Samuel, tell these people they’re all gonna die. Unless they straighten up.” Pretty sure that would be super confusing to Samuel…”wait?! What about the warm fuzzy message?!” I definitely drew a lot of encouragement and strength from this passage/story. Just because God throws hard stuff our way, doesn’t mean you are unloved, or He’s got it out for you…sometimes we listen to Him the most during the hard truth times. But then the bigger, deeper message is this: even in the tough things, God still loves, He’s still sovereign, and He knows best. Even if it confuses our tiny little human brains and hearts.
Surgery day came. She ended up taking my entire left ovary and tube and was surprised to find the fluid in the cyst…was much clearer than she anticipated. While that news helped ease some anxious thoughts, I definitely didn’t want to place all my hope in that report…I wanted the pathology results. And those just so happened to come while I was working on this post yesterday afternoon: completely benign cyst. No sign of malignancy. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a tough spot that caused you to get on your knees more and possibly look at the people around you differently…I can honestly say those times are full of all kinds of emotions…but sometimes they can be such sweet times. Those times are gifts…even thought they don’t look like it, they really are. Leaning into the Lord, and just trusting Him that He has control. This entire situation was 100% out of my control and I am so thankful. No matter what the outcome I wanted to come out praising Him and knowing Him better. I am grateful for His provision through this past month in so many things. And while I’m not a fan of scars…I now have three permanent reminders on my lower abdomen of this time of life where I was faced with uncertainty and grew closer to the Lord through it. And now that this is all officially behind us…I feel like I can close this chapter and move on with 2018. I might try to come up with an unofficial word for the year…but it’s prob just going to be something like “live” or “linger” or “savor”. Nothing super deep or spiritual, but those are the words I’ve had in my heart the past month.
I’d also like to add having my mom around this past week to help me around the house has been such a gift. Today is her last day here…and I don’t want her time here to end. Not just for the help, but I just enjoy having her around. Another gift that came through a not so fun situation.
If you’re walking through a time of uncertainty, find encouragement in Jesus. And in His Church. I guarantee there are people who would be delighted to love on you, pray for you, and just be with you.
Thanks for reading. And now it’s time to begin Friday 🙂
Grace & Peace,